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Furloughed? Protect your assets

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

Whether you're a furloughed government worker or have temporarily lost income for another reason, look at the forced leave of absence as an opportunity to get your financial house in order.

Furloughed workers can use their temporary time off to make long-lasting financial decisions.

Furloughed workers can use their temporary time off to make long-lasting financial decisions.

Leslie Corcoran, financial planner at Family First Financial Planning in Stuart, Fla., suggests furloughed or otherwise temporarily unemployed workers start by making a financial to-do list and checking off a few items each day. These could include canceling the gym membership you never use, filing claims on your flexible spending or health savings account, or organizing paperwork so a loved one can take over in the event of your incapacitation.

"In our everyday lives, we tend to not have time to stop and really look at our financial situation, says Corcoran. "Use this unexpected free time to review your retirement accounts, review your investments and meet with a financial planner."

Know your spending limits

Steve Siebold, author of "How Rich People Think," says that budgeting is a "must" for every income level. If you don't have one, now is the time to get into the habit. Many of the rich got that way by living below their means, but without a budget, it's easy to overspend without realizing it.

Make a list of monthly expenses including necessities such as mortgage and insurance, along with luxuries such as eating out and going to the movies, he says. "Giving up or cutting back on the luxuries will put extra cash in your hands."

He also advises taking a close look at your entire portfolio and developing a strategy for how to access the cash you might need during the period of lost income. Once the checking account cash runs out, he adds, the emergency savings account should be the first choice before dipping into any retirement or other long-term savings accounts. Credit cards are the last resort, he says. "Rich or poor, credit cards are dangerous unless you can comfortably pay off the balance."

Corcoran suggests checking monthly phone and cable bills to see if you can make a call to the company to lower them. Also consider selling unused or unwanted items on the Internet or in consignment shops.

Time for a new career direction?

Furloughed workers may even want to use this time off to explore other career possibilities. "The rich have time and again thought their way out of one cash-flow crisis after another," says Siebold. "While most people wait for their ship to come in and want to rely on the government or unemployment to support them in difficult times, the rich build their own ships. The most popular way this is done is by looking around, finding a problem, solving it and getting paid."

Above all, don't panic, says Corcoran. "Look at the temporary downtime as an opportunity to improve your future, whether financially or by creating an environment of less stress by having a smaller to-do list."

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