After termination, you must grapple with two difficult questions of personal finance. First, how are you going to pay the bills until you find another job? Second, how much do you need to make in your next job to maintain an acceptable lifestyle?
Paradoxically, many people who have spent their professional lives dealing with budgets or with the financial affairs and accounting requirements of organizations have never tracked their personal expenses, formulated a household budget, or regularly checked their monthly bank statements. I suspect that credit cards and electronic banking contribute to many people's relaxed attitudes toward personal accounting; who cares about the balance in the checking account when you can always say "charge it" or get a cash advance from the automatic teller? If this is the way you have operated in the past, you will have to change your habits. Otherwise, your freedom to seek satisfying employment will be severely compromised.
Regardless of how you have managed your finances up to this point, you should sit down and take stock. Plan on being out of work for at least six months. You may find work sooner, but you may also take significantly longer to get settled into new employment. So, begin by listing your current sources of income, which may include severance pay, un employment benefits (for which you should file as soon as possible, no matter how much you would like to avoid doing so), your spouse's income, payments from a former spouse, interest and dividend income, and so on. Next list potential interim sources of money savings, gifts or loans from family members or friends, fees from consulting or part time work, tax refunds, and sale of liquid assets.
You should not feel bad about asking others for financial aid. Easier said than done, of course, when you are accustomed to being financially independent. Look at your situation this way: you are asking others to invest in your future, not to give you a handout. Taking the time now to find work that is truly good for you, rather than feeling forced to take the first job you come across, will pay off in countless ways for many years to come. Remember, too, that the happier you are, the happier your family and loved ones will be: they will also benefit from your taking the time to find work that is right for you.
Having assessed your income situation, you should examine your expenses. Do not merely guesstimate track your actual expenses as accurately as you can, using bank statements, receipts, credit card statements, and so on. Now you are ready for the big challenge figuring out how to make your projected income cover your projected expenses. If you have ample severance benefits, some consulting or free lance opportunities, and a spouse's income to help you through, you may have little difficulty weathering many months of unemployment. If you are not so fortunate, you may have to look for ways to lower your expenses.
Most of us spend a fair amount of money daily on inessentials such as movies, video rentals, cable TV, wine and liquor, dinners out, micro wave meals, tobacco, magazines, records or tapes or CDs, clothes, and health club memberships. All make good candidates for cutbacks. In fact, you may now have a golden opportunity to ditch some of those expensive but unhealthy habits you have acquired over the years! One friend of mine realized after losing her job that with cigarettes costing over two dollars a pack, she was spending nearly $100 a month on her smoking habit. Smoke Enders, hypnosis, and acupuncture treatments had all failed to break her habit, but the prospect of saving $100 a month when her cash flow was low enabled her to smoke her last cigarette.
As you look for ways to economize, however, don't deprive yourself of all your former sources of pleasure. Getting out for a meal and a movie (or whatever you most like to do) is important during the stressful process of looking for a job. If you give up your health club membership, take up walking, jogging, calisthenics, or aerobic routines you can do at home. Now, more than ever, you need to treat yourself well, rewarding yourself for progress and persistence from time to time.
Bear in mind also that you will need to spend money to equip yourself for your job search. You should have some calling cards made up (calling cards are essentially business cards without an organizational affiliation), get yourself some good stationery, and buy or lease a phone answering machine. If you don't have a typewriter or personal computer with a high quality printer, you may want to buy or lease this kind of equipment, too. You will need to do a fair amount of photocopying and mailing, the expense of which can mount quickly. Finally, depending on the shape of your wardrobe, you may want to invest in one or two interviewing outfits. You do not need to be extravagant you don't need the most expensive stationery available or the most advanced word processing soft ware on the market but neither should you scrimp.
If you are tackling personal financial management for the first time, you might want to get more advice on how to keep records, cut costs, and make the most of your financial assets. Two books can give you more extensive guidance:
1. How to Avoid a Mid Life Financial Crisis by Richard Eisenberg (Penguin Books, 1988).
2. How to Live Within Your Means and Still Finance Your Dreams by Robert Ortalda (Simon & Schuster, 1989).