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Prepare for Layoff Now, Fret Less Later

Get your personal finances in order: Build an emergency fund, enough to cover at least three to six months of expenses. Since we may be facing an extended downturn, a larger rainy-day fund might be in order. Consider opening a high-interest savings account for that purpose. Visit to find out what kind of interest you can earn, and start putting away a little bit every pay period. If necessary, cut back on discretionary spending.

Get what you need and what you can: Back up necessary files from your work computer, so you can access them from home. Compile work samples, performance reviews and whatever personal files you'd want for a job search. Also, find out what's coming to you in the event of layoff. For example, what sort of severance package are you likely to get? Is it negotiable? Do you have a vesting date coming up for your firm's 401(k) contributions or profit-sharing plan, or a bonus? During any exit process, you may be able to make a case that you are due those benefits. Likewise, take advantage of other current benefits. For example, now might be the time to take care of medical or dental issues you've been putting off.

Prepare yourself mentally: Be ready emotionally in case you get the call so you can handle the situation appropriately and professionally. You don't want to burn bridges on the way out, which could hurt your chances to return someday, or affect the references you'll need. Talk to your partner and children, if they're old enough, about what the family will do if either of you lose a job. By taking these steps now, you'll be ready for whatever happens in the months and years ahead.
Mike Woelflein is a business and personal finance freelance writer. A former senior industry specialist with Standard & Poor's and managing editor of ColoradoBiz magazine, he has also written for The Denver Post and American Express.
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