Jobs are disappearing at an accelerating pace in 2009. U.S. companies announced 663,000 layoffs in March. The unemployment rate has jumped to 8.5 percent, the highest since 1983. If you were one of those unfortunate enough to receive the pink slip, there are some immediate steps for you to consider as you embark on managing your new financial situation.
Tip One: Find out what credit’s available to you
First, you need to get a sense of the credit available to you. Since it’s not uncommon for it to take 6-12 months to find a new job, especially with so many people looking, you’ll need to know what products can provide you options. If you have a home, you should research the amount of equity you have in your home and consider opening a home equity line of credit. No, this doesn’t mean living off of your house, but rather having access to money should the need arise. A home equity line of credit is a form of revolving credit in which your home serves as collateral.
Also, be sure to read carefully through any pre-approvals you get in the mail for credit cards. While unemployed, you’ll want to make sure any new credit cards you apply for don’t have annual fees or high APRs. These fees can really add up.
Tip Two: Actively monitor your credit score
You should also monitor your credit score. Credit Karma (www.creditkarma.com) allows you to track and trend your credit score for free. There are also tools available on the website to help you make those difficult decisions if necessary. The Credit Simulator helps you accurately estimate the positive or negative impact of 14 different financial behaviors on your own personal credit score. For example, it allows you to see the effect of paying one card 30 days late versus paying all cards 90 days late.
Tip Three: Use Personal Finance Tools
Lastly, it’s a good idea to start using a personal finance management tool. There are several free ones out there including Quicken, Geezeo, and Wesabe. These tools allow you to keep track of your bank accounts and loans in one place so you can easily see how much money you have , what you are spending it on, and what you owe. Because these tools are connected to your bank account they also track your spending and help you budget. During these difficult times it’s important to cut back on the “nice to haves” and stick to purchasing “must haves.”
Other positive features of these tools include opportunities for you to get better deals in the financial marketplace (as these tools offer financial product suggestions based on your money transactions), and the ability to gauge your personal financial health by comparing your finances to the finances of others in a secure and anonymous fashion.
By: Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma