NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It seems like we're never really secure. Though the economy is improving and the overall rate of layoffs is falling, Microsoft just announced it is slashing 18,000 jobs, or 14% of its workforce.
The cuts are related to Microsoft's purchase of cellphone maker Nokia, which has had its share of problems. So it would be easy to pass this off as one of those things that means nothing to the rest of us. But since mergers happen in good times as well as bad, and are often driven by the prospect of job-killing "efficiencies," the Microsoft case stands as an object lesson: Even in the best of times, your employment is never completely safe.
So how does a savvy worker prepare for a job loss that comes from nowhere?
Having a rainy-day fund is key, of course. Most experts think it should contain enough cash for six to 12 months of expenses. It needs to be easily accessible in a checking, savings or money market account. For a little more interest earnings, you could stash some is three- or six-month certificates of deposit. But those pay so little interest these days it's hardly worth the trouble.
Key to preparing for the worst is to minimize fixed expenses -- those monthly costs you cannot trim, such as a big mortgage or car payment. Stretching to own the most expensive home you can afford also means big fixed expenses for property taxes, homeowners insurance and heating.