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What To Do If You've Lost Your Job

Other Compensation. Collect any unpaid vacation leave, bonuses, commissions, or outstanding expense reimbursements.

• You may be able to use any accrued vacation time to extend your termination date. This could give you some extra time to be covered by your employer’s health insurance.

Unemployment Benefits. Register for unemployment even if you don’t expect to be out of work for long.

• The sooner you apply, the sooner you‘ll have some extra money to slow the drain on your savings.

• Your benefit is based on a percentage of your wages up to your state’s maximum amount— about $350 per week.  

Getting Your Finances in Order

Spending Plan. Create an income and spending plan.

• List all sources of income so you know where you stand.

• Divide your expenses into what you have to spend each month (rent, utilities, food, and gas) and what you can do without.

Debt. Hold off on adding more debt to your credit cards. It’s better to cut expenses as much as you can than to live on your credit cards.

• Pay your bills on time to avoid late charges that just add to your debt burden and can boost your interest rate. Also pay more than the minimum payment.

• Read the Money Matters Tip Sheet “Improving Your Credit” for tips on how to do this.

• Let your credit card, mortgage and car loan companies know of your circumstances. Find out if your creditors offer grace periods that allow you to defer payments until later.

• Check to see if you have paid for credit insurance that will help with payments when you lose your job.

• Know what to do and where to turn if you are having a hard time making your mortgage payment.

Savings. Tap savings strategically.

• Plan out which funds you’ll use first. Pull from the account that earns the lowest interest first.

• Keep in mind that early withdrawals from certificates of deposit and retirement accounts trigger penalties.

• If you have an emergency fund, now’s the time to consider using it.

Investments. Now is a key time to check in with a financial professional to make sure your investment choices are appropriate for your current needs.

Taxes. Adjust your spouse’s tax withholding so you get a little extra cash now instead of a refund later. The W-4 is available at

New for the 2009 tax season, you should contact the IRS if you are:

Facing an unusual hardship situation such as job loss. They may be able to adjust payments for back taxes, help you avoid defaulting on payment agreements or possibly defer collection action. 

Having problems with an existing Installment Agreement. They may allow a skipped payment or a reduced monthly payment amount without automatically suspending the Installment Agreement.

Unable to meet the periodic payment terms of an accepted Offer in Compromise (an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax debt for less than the full amount owed or OIC).

Requesting a levy release due to hardship. The IRS has eased requirements on taxpayers who request expedited levy(seizure of property to satisfy warrants for the collection of taxes) releases for hardship reasons. You should be prepared to provide the IRS with the fax number of the bank or employer processing the levy.

Having financial problems and discover you can’t pay when you file your 2008 tax returns.

Visit for additional information.

Get free tax counseling from AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide.

Getting Extra Help

Social Services. Contact local social services or religious organizations. Many have funds for short-term needs.

Public Benefits. The AARP Quicklink benefit finder will help you find out which public benefits you are eligible for. You can also use the state benefit fact sheets.

Social Security. Order your Social Security statement to check for any errors in your earnings record.

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