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An unprecedented number of American workers are facing unemployment now, as the COVID-19 virus forces closings of American businesses. Despite all the plans you make for retirement, and the financial strategy you  put together for your post-career years, sometimes a premature loss of a job can force you to change course. The one thing you can control is how you prepare for a job loss, and what to do once it happens. Taking a proactive approach can save a lot of heartache later, but there are ways to navigate a late career job loss even if you have not prepared for it.

Here are a few useful tips:

Your rainy day fund: If you have a rainy day fund, that rainy day may be now. Rainy day funds are often used in worse case scenarios, and if your current financial situation is dire, this may be the time to consider using some of that money. Even if you have a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a 401K, having an additional rainy-day fund can be a lifesaver. A basic money market account is available through most banks and often is an easy source of ready cash.

Diversify your skill set: People who limit their abilities to one job type or skill are the ones who suffer the most and the longest when they experience a job loss. It makes sense to know how to do  more than one thing in life, especially as it pertains to generating income. Having a varied skill set will always give you something to fall back on in the event of unexpected unemployment.

Reassess your budget: Chances are you developed your monthly budget a while back, but it makes sense to review it now to determine if there are non-essential expenses you can cut out. For example, if you budgeted a certain amount for monthly entertainment expenses, but you are not really using as much as you budgeted, you may want to reallocate those funds to your rainy-day fund.

Maintain industry awareness: Keep up with what is happening in your industry. If you see downsizing, layoffs or human jobs being replaced by technology, now is the time to start planning for any possibility. Keeping abreast of changes and moves in your industry allows you to avoid surprises down the road, and to manage your career, rather than letting it manage you.

All of the above are proactive steps you can take before a possible job loss. Here are a few tips for navigating unemployment if it actually happens:

Consider interim employment: Once the current crisis abates and businesses begin to reopen, some workers will not have a job waiting for them. Until you can reposition yourself in your chosen industry, you might consider what transferable skills you have, and use those skills to find interim employment in another field. Yes, ageism still exists in the job market, but you may be able to find temporary employment, or part time employment while you try to reposition yourself in your desired industry.

File for unemployment insurance: If you lost your job for no fault of your own, you are probably eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. The maximum weekly benefit amount you can collect in Louisiana is $247, and the amount you will be paid is based on what you were earning at your job. You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online or by phone. You can find online filing information, as well as the numbers for filing by phone, at the Louisiana Workforce Commission website.

Consider social security: The one advantage older workers have when they are suddenly jobless is their option to file for social security. If you are 62 or older you can claim social security benefits. It is better to wait until you are full retirement age, 67, because the benefit amount will be greater each month, but in some cases the difference in benefits between filing earlier or waiting until full retirement is minimal. Find out what your potential Social Security benefits are at the Social Security website. Above all, do not panic. Take a measured, organized approach to your new situation. Prioritize smartly, starting with health insurance. In some cases, your former employer will give you a grace period on health insurance while you determine how to make the next move. You can always file for COBRA insurance, which allows you to continue your employer-provided health plan on a monthly paid basis. Learn more about COBRA here.

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