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Happy New Year!
It's an America tradition to establish New Year's resolutions and generally two common themes emerge - lose weight and improve money management. While noble goals, without adequate preparation and follow through, many folks fail to accomplish either and soon give up. 2009 provides additional challenges to following through with financial resolutions due to faltering national and international economies and local job losses and layoffs. All is not gloom and doom. While you may be facing personal and family difficulties, they may actually create opportunities. Two books in my office that provide me inspiration are "Small Steps to Health and Wealth" and "Wealth Happens One Day at a Time". Both are based on the premise that small changes, over time, can create amazing changes in your life. If your circumstances have recently changed, you need to adapt. One of my favorite sayings is, "If you continue to do what you've always done, you'll get the same results." Turn that around and it becomes the definition of insanity, "continuing to do what you've always done and expecting a different result!" Because your situation has changed, you now must change to successfully adapt to your new circumstances.
This is the beginning of a series of articles to help you if you are facing a job loss or a drop in income. These articles will be based on a series of Penn State Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets entitled "Bouncing Back When Your Income Drops." The program overview can be downloaded from http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/ui339.pdf .
Experiencing a job loss or layoff affects all aspects of your life. Take positive steps by having a family meeting to explain the situation and generate ideas on how the whole family can help adapt to the new situation they find themselves in. While you may feel tremendous stress, this will filter down to other members of the family. Open communication about feelings can create opportunities for family members to offer support to each other.
What financial resources do you have to help you out until you find new employment? Ideally, you have been stashing some cash in an emergency fund and have between three and six months of living expenses to tide you over. If you are eligible, file a claim for unemployment benefits at the nearest PA Careerlink Office. They offer multiple services including job referrals and resume assistance. Other benefits that you might find helpful can be found at The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Services website www.compass.state.pa.us . This unique website serves not only as an online application but also as a screening tool to help you learn what benefits you and your family are eligible for.
Review your monthly bills and credit obligations. Prioritize what expenses you must pay and work with creditors to make alternative payment arrangements. Many creditors have payment plans available for people facing similar situations. Review your spending for a month. With each expense assess if it is a need or a want. Can you make changes to reduce your monthly expenses? If other household members are working, might they have the opportunity to work additional hours or pick up a second job? If so, can you take over their household chores to reduce their stress load?
Take a look at your community with new eyes. What services and agencies are available to help you? Sometimes people feel uncomfortable about asking for help, but that is why these organizations exist. Using them during your time of need can help you get back on your feet and maybe you can return the favor in the future. Locally the Potter County Education Council and the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties can provide a wide range of career assessment and enhancement services - free of charge.
Next week we'll address the emotional aspects of losing a job. These articles can also be found at http://www.personal.psu.edu/rlk16/blogs/about_your_money/ where you can leave comments and questions.
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