Down in the Dumps: Reclaiming Stability During Unemployment

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 The unemployment rate in the United States (as of December 2016) is 4.7% which is a far cry from when it peaked at 10% back in October 2009. Yet, here you are having fallen on hard times. You’re one of the unlucky ones to fit in this percentage but you’re not just a number.

It’s difficult to say how long it will take before you’re able to find stability. They don’t teach you what it’s like being unemployed in school.

The Unemployment Slump: Toiling Away and Keeping Busy

The first likely scenario when finding yourself unemployed is to check and understand your benefits by finding your state’s unemployment office list and scheduling a meeting for paperwork.

Unemployment helps via:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly pay ranges from ½ of your earnings in most states
  • A check or debit card is used to disperse payments
  • Benefits generally run for 26 weeks (though depends on state)
  • Extended, emergency, educational assistance, and self-employment assistance

Some settle in and ride out unemployment while others can’t sit still and will turn their job search into a full-time activity. It’s a frustrating process having to re-enter information repeatedly but the job search systems are getting better.

In the meantime, you could always volunteer, exercise, work a hobby or art, and find free things to do to occupy your time. You can’t let yourself go stir crazy.

The Harsh Realities: Six Actions to Stabilize Finances

We’re lucky to have support systems here in America yet many feel “ashamed” when they finally need to tap these resources. Don’t be.

Here are six things you can do to help with finances while unemployed:

  • Make a budget. It’s time to get serious about money in & money out. Sit down and factor any remaining income that’s yet to be paid (or the unemployment benefits). List the expenses and categorize them based on priority. Eliminate unnecessary spending. Check out our best selling household budgeting system here.
  • Credit cards. Contact the creditors and arrange to reschedule or delay payments for a later date in the month or reduce them all-together.
  • 401k/IRA. It’s not recommended unless an extreme emergency but dipping into a retirement fund may be your chance to pull out of the unemployment slump. Just make sure you only do the necessary amount and try to roll over extra into an IRA.
  • Family & friends. Now’s the time to talk options with family & friends. Reach out to those willing to help and record every act of kindness while creating a repayment plan you’ll commit to.
  • Part-time work. You’re able to work a part-time job under the right circumstances based on your state. This will generate enough income while you seek the bigger & better positions. Consider something easy and work with a temp agency.
  • Free entertainment. Cutting off the “fun things” eats at you. Replace expensive outings with free entertainment such as community events, going to the library, or tapping into over-the-air broadcasts for TV. We have a great list of inexpensive recreation ideas here.

The lesson being to use what government and third-party programs you can while tapping the personal resources found in friends, family, and the community.

The Silver Lining: A Moment to Shine

There is a silver lining to unemployment if you’re able to keep a positive attitude – think about this:

  • I’m free to realign my goals
  • I’m free to focus on improving myself

The upside of being unemployed is the ability to reinvent yourself. It’s something hard to do when working and because you were comfortable in your previous position. Read this article about how to survive a financial crisis.

Think of this as the moment of the new you.

  • Learn and refine skills
  • Network and build relationships
  • Find a new path

The struggle is real but as we’ve seen there are ways to create stability and move forward. No more toiling away and keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy. Get the next stage of your life in motion.

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