What would you do if you were laid off from your job today? This question isn’t meant to make you want to hide under your desk, but to encourage you to evaluate your circumstances. What would happen to your financial situation if you suddenly didn’t have an income to rely on?
While it’s not exactly fun to plan ahead for life’s hardshipsâsay, your car breaking down or losing a jobâdoing so can help you stay afloat financially and avoid taking on debt to remedy an already tense situation.
What can you do to prepare your budget for a layoff? These four steps will help you prepare your budget for a layoff and survive a layoff financially:
1. Put some of your paycheck into savings
In order to prepare your budget for a layoff, one of the best things you can do is learn to live on less when you have your typical paychecks coming in. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many, and a habit many promise to break once they earn more. If you can afford it, consider trying to live off only a portion of your paycheck. That way, you can always depend on having extra money to fall back on in the event of a hardship, like a layoff.
Jill Caponera, a consumer savings expert at coupon platform Promocodes.com, suggests paying yourself firstâputting some of each paycheck into savings before you spend any of itâin order to save for an unexpected job loss.
“Put money directly into your savings account the moment you get paid so that you’re never in a position where you’re strapped during a true financial emergency,” Caponera says. Try scheduling an automatic recurring transfer from checking to savings that hits after each payday, or create a direct deposit to savings from each paycheck through your employer.
If living on less isn’t feasible for you right now, start small and focus on taking baby steps to prepare your budget for a layoff. You could start with a money savings challenge and a more attainable goal, like living off of 97 percent of your paycheck and saving the remaining 3 percent. This means that if your take-home pay is $4,000 a month, your goal is to put 3 percent, or $120, into savings monthly and then limit your bills and spending to $3,880. As you get accustomed to that amount, gradually increase the percentage of your paycheck you save each period. Some budgeting experts suggest saving at least 20 percent of your income and living off of the other 80 percent.
If you devote even a small percentage of your paycheck to savings before the bills and discretionary expenses roll in, saving will eventually become habit. You’ll get used to budgeting only with your post-savings take-home pay, and you won’t miss the savings portion of your paycheck.
âPut money directly into your savings account the moment you get paid so that you’re never in a position where you’re strapped during a true financial emergency.”
2. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in an emergency fund
Once you’ve gotten used to regularly saving a portion of your income, you can save for an unexpected job loss by building up a solid emergency fund over timeâespecially if you are using an online savings account with a high interest rate. An emergency fund is a dedicated savings account that you only touch in the event of financial hardship, such as a medical emergency or job loss.
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Christian Stewart, founder of financial coaching site Do Better Financial, recommends having an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses to help you survive a layoff financially.
“The goal is to make sure all your bases are covered, meaning you can pay the bills and proceed with a relatively normal life until you find another job,” Stewart says. She notes the actual amount of money you need to save for an unexpected job loss will vary based on your lifestyle, employment industry and willingness to relocate, since this can dictate how long it could take to find another job.
To build an emergency fund and save for an unexpected job loss, Stewart recommends starting a zero-based budget. This form of budgeting gives every dollar you earn a job, such as paying a bill, funding your emergency account or financing fun and discretionary expenses. In addition to making your emergency fund a priority, this budgeting strategy helps you identify exactly how much you spend within each budget category each month. You can then find areas of careless spendingâperhaps an unused subscription serviceâwhere you could stand to cut back. You could redistribute those dollars to your emergency fund.
“In the event of a layoff, you will have a clear line of sight to regular areas of your spending that can be cut if it takes longer to find a new job,” Stewart says.
After you’re comfortable with the size of your emergency fund and feel like you can survive a layoff financially, you can use any extra savings for a different financial goal, such as saving for retirement or a down payment on a car or home.
3. Find income from a side hustle
Another way to survive a layoff financially is to have a side gig in place. Contrary to what some believe, side hustles do not have to take up an onerous amount of your time. There are actually many side hustles you can do while working full time, such as freelancing in your current field, driving for a rideshare app or tutoring.
Not only do side jobs create extra cash flow to devote toward savings or debt repayment when you have a full-time job, they also give you an added layer of security to help you save for an unexpected job loss. You might not be able to replace your full-time earnings with your music lesson business, but it can provide you with some predictable cash flow while you interview for a new position.
You could even turn your side hustle into a full-time job if you have a passion project you’ve been wanting to turn into a career. Alternatively, your side hustle turned full-time gig could help maintain your income stream if you plan to take additional time off after a layoffâif you decide to go back to school or make a move to a new industry, for example.
4. Know where to turn for assistance
Being laid off can be a traumatic experience, and if it does happen, it is important to know where to turn and how to make decisions that aren’t rooted in fear or emotion.
“Sit down with a level-headed friend, spouse and/or counselor to process your new financial reality,” Stewart of Do Better Financial says. “If you’re receiving a compensation package, do yourself a favor and work out beforehand where the money will be spent and how long you need it to last.”
Speaking of work benefits, make sure you utilize all of the benefits possible before your layoff goes into full effect, such as getting an annual physical through your health insurance plan.
âSit down with a level-headed friend, spouse and/or counselor to process your new financial reality. If you’re receiving a compensation package, do yourself a favor and work out beforehand where the money will be spent and how long you need it to last.”
“If you’ve been laid off, or are expecting an upcoming layoff, you should immediately contact your state’s unemployment office to set up your account and start receiving your compensation,” consumer savings expert Caponera says. “While these benefits won’t pay as much as your full-time salary, these funds will certainly help to cover your monthly bills and living expenses while you continue to look for work.”
Each state has different benefits and paperwork requirements, so make sure you’re using your state’s government website to learn more and to survive a layoff financially.
Prepare your budget for a layoff
Facing a layoff can be emotionally and financially draining, especially if you don’t see it coming. The most important thing is to start planning ahead, and prepare your budget for a layoff before it happens.
The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Prepare Your Budget for a Layoff appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
If you have an irregular income, you know how great the good times feelâand how difficult the lean times can be. While you can’t always control when you get paid or the size of each paycheck if you’re a freelancer, contractor or work in the gig economy, you can take control of your money by creating a budget that will help you manage these financial extremes.
Antowoine Winters, a financial planner and principal at Next Steps Financial Planning, LLC, says creating a budget with a variable income can require big-picture thinking. You may need to spend time testing out different methods when you first start budgeting, but, âif done correctly, it can really empower you to control your life,” Winters says.
How do you budget on an irregular income? Consider these four strategies to help you budget with a variable income and gain financial confidence:
1. Determine your average income and expenses
If you want to start budgeting on a fluctuating income, you need to know how much money you have coming in and how much you’re spending.
Of course, that’s the basis for any budget. But it can be particularly important if you’re trying to budget on an irregular income because you may have especially high- or low-income periods. You want to start tracking as soon as possible to build up accurate data on your average income and expenses.
For example, once you have six months’ worth of income and expenses documented, you can divide the total by six to determine your average income and expenses by month.
Many financial apps and websites can help with the tracking, including ones that can connect to your online bank and credit card accounts and automatically pull in your transactions. You may even be able to pull in previous months’ or years’ worth of data, which you can use to calculate your averages.
If you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income and apps aren’t your thing, you can use a spreadsheet or even a pen and notebook to track your cash flow. However, without automated tracking, it can be difficult to consistently keep your information up to date.
2. Try a zero-sum budget
“There are several strategies you can use to budget with an irregular income, but one of the easiest ones is the zero-sum budget,” says Holly Johnson. As a full-time freelance writer, she’s been budgeting with a variable income for over seven years and is the coauthor of the book Zero Down Your Debt.
With a zero-sum budget, your income and expenses should even out so there’s nothing left over at the end of the month. The trick is to treat your savings goals as expenses. For example, your “expenses” may include saving for an emergency, vacation or homeownership.
“There are several strategies you can use to budget with an irregular income, but one of the easiest ones is the zero-sum budget.”
Johnson says if you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income, you can adopt the zero-sum budget by creating a “salary” for yourself. Consider your average monthly expenses (shameless plug for tip 1) and use that number as your baseline.
For example, if your monthly household bills, groceries, business expenses, savings goals and other necessities add up to $4,000, that’s your salary for the month. During months when you make over $4,000, put the extra money into a separate savings account. During months when you make less than $4,000, draw from that account to bring your salary up to $4,000.
“We call this fund the ‘boom and bust’ fund,” Johnson says. “By building up an adequate amount of savings, you will create a situation where you can pay yourself the salary you need each month.”
3. Separate your saving and spending money
Physically separating your savings from your everyday spending money may be especially important when you’re creating a budget on an irregular income. You may be tempted to pull funds from your savings goals during low-income months, and stashing your savings in a separate, high-yield savings account can force you to pause and think twice before dipping in.
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An easy way to put this tip into action when creating a budget with a variable income is to have all of your income deposited into one account, then disburse it into separate savings and spending accounts. “Transfer a set amount on the first of every month to a bill-paying account and a set amount to a spending account,” Winters, the financial planner, says.
“The bill pay account is used to pay for all of the regular expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, student loans, etc.,” Winters says. These bills generally stay the same each month. The spending account can be used for your variable expenses, such as groceries and gas.
When considering your savings accounts, Winters also suggests funding a retirement account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
If you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income as a contract worker or freelancer, you may also want to set money aside for taxes because the income and payroll taxes you’ll owe aren’t automatically taken out of your paychecks.
4. Build up your emergency fund
“The best way to weather low-income periods is to prepare with an adequate emergency fund,” freelancer Johnson says. An emergency fund is money you set aside for necessary expenses during an emergency, such as a medical issue or broken-down vehicle.
Generally, you’ll want to save up enough money to cover three to six months of your regular expenses. Once you build your fund, you can put extra savings toward other financial goals.
When you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income, having the emergency fund can help you feel more at ease knowing that you’ll be able to pay your necessary bills if the unexpected happens or when you’re stuck in a low-income period for longer than anticipated.
A budget can make living with a variable income easier
It can be challenging to budget on an irregular income, especially when you’re first starting. You might have to cut back on expenses for several months to start building up your savings and try multiple budgeting methods before finding the one that works best for you.
“Budgeting requires a mindset change regardless of which type of budget you try,” Johnson explains.
“The best way to weather low-income periods is to prepare with an adequate emergency fund.”
However, once in place, a budget on an irregular income can also help free you from worrying about the boom-and-bust cycle that many variable-income workers deal with throughout the year.
The goal is to get to the point where you can budget with a variable income and don’t have to worry about when you’ll get paid next because you set your budget based on your averages, planned ahead during the high times and have savings ready for your low times.
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Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmakerâa dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.
While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”
Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.
1. Decide if going back to school is right for you
Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?
According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:
Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibilityâfor instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.
“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree isâi.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”
Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.
2. Know how much you need to save
How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.
Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:
Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree isâi.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.
“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”
3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline
One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:
Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or twoâwhatever you can affordâand continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits
So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:
Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start
Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.
But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to âweigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.
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