3 financial moves to make when you get fired


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One really bad day at the office (or warehouse) could get you fired.

It often begins with a tap on the shoulder from your supervisor. You are told you need to report to your company’s human resources office right away.

When you arrive, the HR official tells you that the economy is forcing your employer to cut back, or perhaps the company is “looking to go in a different direction,” or maybe you didn’t meet XYZ requirements of your position.

The upshot: You’re fired!

Your stomach sinks, your mind is spinning and you can’t decide whether you want to jump out the window or push your boss out the window. But keep your head, people get fired every day.

Take three steps to ease the financial pain of getting fired

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1. Build up an emergency savings fund.
That’s a move you should make now, well before your company cans you.

Taylor Gang, a principal at Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management, recommends amassing an amount equal to three months of spending if you’re married, and six months if you’re single. That will hopefully tide you over until you find your next job and eliminate the need to liquidate any of your investment portfolio after you’re sacked.

“Make sure it’s liquid and can be accessed easily,” he says of the savings. You don’t want your money stuck in a certificate of deposit when you’re desperate for cash.

2. Apply for unemployment insurance.
Basically, if you were fired for a reason having nothing to do with you, such as a weak economy, or even if it’s because of inadequate performance, you’re likely entitled to unemployment compensation. If you were fired for misconduct, you’re out of luck. But different states define misconduct differently, so it’s worth filing for benefits in any case.

3. Get health insurance squared away.
Find out how much it will cost to continue your company’s health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. If you decide to continue your current coverage through COBRA, it will likely be very expensive.

But you have an alternative. “Losing your job is a triggering event for Obamacare, allowing you to sign up outside of the normal open enrollment period,” says Tom Fredrickson, a fee-only financial planner in New York City.

“The Affordable Care Act might provide more affordable options,” he says. “Go on to the health care exchange website (HealthCare.gov) and crunch the numbers to see if you would be better off with COBRA or Obamacare, keeping in mind such factors as whether your preferred doctors will be available in your new network.”

Also, avoid cashing out of your company’s 401(k) plan if possible, unless you’re rolling the proceeds into another retirement plan. Otherwise, not only will you lose the tax advantages of your retirement plan, you will also face paying income taxes plus a 10 percent penalty if you’re under 55.

“If you have more than $5,000, you can keep your money in your old plan. This may be the best option for the short term and possibly the long term,” Fredrickson says.