Job loss is one of those life events that packs a whammy, both financially and emotionally. Often it happens unexpectedly, with many ill-prepared for the sudden changes that it brings. Whether you are laid off from your job, find yourself facing an unexpected “early retirement” or suddenly find yourself unable to work because of a serious accident or injury, the financial impact can seem overwhelming—sometimes even devastating.

Employment is a huge driver of lifestyle and a great benefactor for individuals. However, in today’s global business environment, companies are focusing on operational efficiencies. Downsizing, off-shoring, mergers and acquisitions—the modern economy makes job security tenuous for many of us. If you’ve lost your job, you are not alone.

The initial shock of losing a job often leads many of us to knee-jerk reactions and decisions that can impact financial stability for years. It’s not the time to make any rash choices, especially where money is concerned. In fact, this may be one of your best opportunities to take a step back and reflect on your current needs, life goals and aspirations. With this fresh new lens, sit down with a Certified Financial Planner® professional to help you map a course that will balance what you need and want today with the personal goals you have for the future.

As you consider your options, you’ll want to ask yourself some key questions.

  1. Is the lay off a short-term phenomenon, seasonal or permanent?

  2. Have you been offered a severance package? If so, should you try to negotiate for more?

  3. Once you receive your severance, what is the best way to use the money?

  4. What should you do with your existing pension plan (commute, move, or leave the plan where it is)?

  5. Are there opportunities around pension splitting that may benefit you at tax time?

These are just some of the issues and questions that make it prudent to seek the advice of a Certified Financial Planner® professional, who can also bring in other professionals, such as lawyers or accountants, if necessary. “A financial planning professional can act as the quarterback to help provide a framework for informed decision-making during a very emotional time,” says Andrew Dedousis, CFP® professional and senior wealth advisor with Meridian Credit Union in Guelph, Ontario.

Dedousis also cautions against making common mistakes. “Often, individuals want to immediately eliminate debt by withdrawing investment savings, but this can bring both tax ramifications and the prospect of leaving too little for retirement,” says Dedousis. There are alternatives to liquidating everything right away, he says, and these options need to be explored with a professional who is qualified in financial planning before embarking on any emotionally-charged decision.  

Ultimately, however, the key to survival is being well prepared before a pink-slip or illness brings unemployment says Dr. Moira Somers, a clinical neuropsychologist with Money, Mind and Meaning, specializing in financial psychology.

“When a significant life event happens, people often make a resolution never to leave themselves so vulnerable again, but that doesn’t put food on the table today,” she says. “When in a panic, people can lock themselves into a new job or financial situation that is not their best option. This is why it’s so important to plan and have an emergency fund, and where it helps to have trusted advisors. They can provide the reassurance and breathing room necessary to take stock and determine where the best path lies.“

In fact, losing your job could well be one of the best opportunities you have to gain greater control over your financial future and emotional well-being.

To find a Certified Financial Planner® professional in your area that will help guide you financially, use our Find Your Planner tool.

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For more on finding a planner to help you navigate life's challenges, read Choosing a financial planner and 8 key traits of an ethical financial planner.