How can I best navigate through the turbulent waters that unemployment brings?
Even before we deal with the practical effects of unemployment, it is important to remember that, while the secular world often determines a person’s self-worth by what he does, the essence of our self-worth is that we have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Pope John Paul II once said, “Work is for man, and not man for work.” Recognize that job loss is a cross to be carried, not an indication of your value. During such a transition, it’s especially important to be consistent with your daily spiritual plan. Doing so will keep you close to the Lord, will help keep things in perspective, and will be an important part of your new daily routine. (For a free version of a daily spiritual plan, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
The first step to take with your finances is to assess where you are. If you’ve been following a solid financial plan, you’ll already have the information you need. If not, it’s imperative to immediately prepare a balance sheet and an estimate of annual spending by key categories. (Free tools are available by registering for “My Veritas Plan” at VeritasFinancialMinistries.com). As you review your spending plan, consider areas that can be temporarily eliminated or reduced. Your goal will be to minimize your deficit until income can be restored.
Once you know your anticipated deficit, you can better develop strategies to cope with the time of unemployment. The greater your rainy-day fund, the more options you’ll have. If you have already depleted your rainy-day fund, you’ll need to consider how to fund your basic needs without taking on additional debt. This is a time to consider all options, including:
Obtain the maximum benefits available through state unemployment and other “safety net” programs.
Have each spouse and even older children consider temporary work until a permanent position is found.
Prioritize the sale of assets that can provide for daily expenses. While this is not the ideal solution, sometimes it is necessary. Focus on selling non-income producing assets first, and make sure to factor in tax consequences when determining which assets to sell.
Recognize that the less liquidity you have, the more flexible you’ll need to be in your job search. This may include accepting a lesser position than would have been desired and a willingness to move to where positions are more plentiful.
Finally, ask for heavenly help. Remember that St. Joseph had to deal with a middle-of-the-night job change, so he can relate to our struggles. As the patron saint of workers, he will carry your petitions to our Father in heaven. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries and author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Small Group Study (OSV).