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To Her Credit

Traversing unemployment: Steps to ensuring your financial security

How to prepare for a job search, handle your finances and stay mentally well during a period of unemployment.

To Her Credit offers targeted advice about personal finance based on unique challenges faced by women. It is authored by women with different financial backgrounds, dedicated to encouraging empowerment through financial literacy.

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Unemployment can feel debilitating, demotivating and downright scary. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically increased unemployment rates – and women have been uniquely and adversely affected.

See related: How the coronavirus pandemic could impact women

Women accounted for 55% of the jobs lost in April, while men accounted for 45%, says Mihaela Pintea, associate professor of economics at Florida International University, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, there are concrete ways to recover and get back on your feet. If you are facing unemployment, remember that you are not alone. Many women are currently in similar situations, feeling stressed and anxious.

From managing your finances to seeking the next job opportunity, there are important steps to take when you become unemployed. Although you may feel desperate for a job, it is important that you seek out meaningful and fulfilling employment.

It is also important to prioritize your mental health and well-being throughout each step of the process, helping you come out on top.

First steps after losing your job

You may be feeling panicked and desperate for help when you first become unemployed. These first steps will help you get organized and set a solid foundation for seeking a new job.

Refresh your resume

Too often, we are told that society wants women to be demure and modest, and the workplace is no exception.

A Montana State University study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly found that women were less likely than men to self-promote their accomplishments.

In order to stand out, it’s important to instead be bold on your resume. List accomplishments that make you proud, using concrete and statistic-driven examples of how a project or assignment exceeded expectations.

Capitalize on any severance benefits

If you can negotiate severance pay from the employer you’re leaving, you should do so with an assertive and motivated attitude. This lens will help you reap the most benefits possible.

It is important to remember that you have more power than you think. Labor and employment attorney Alex Granovsky of Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC says, “Everything is negotiable … If you understand what your former employer’s needs are, you can leverage your unique position.”

Before any negotiations, be sure to research common severance packages for your position and tenure. This will help you enter the negotiation with an informed perspective of your must-haves.

Pay especially close attention to whether your severance is a lump sum or split into segmented payments. This knowledge will inform your future financial decisions.

Prepare your finances for joblessness

Joblessness can make life feel turbulent and uncontrollable. However, your financial decisions during this time can set the stage for successfully navigating this period of unemployment.

Nail down a budget

Cognizance of your spending is of the utmost importance when you are unemployed. Using a budget to track your expenses during this time will keep you aware of the most important expenses to tend to.

See related: Get through unemployment without borrowing

A simple way to divide the budget is by bucketing expenses into four categories: housing, transportation, food and debt.

Kevin Weeks, a personal finance contributor, says a bare-bones budget is ideal. “Your priorities should be your housing, food and utilities. If you have a car payment, that should be next, along with gas for your car,” he says.

However, women are often confronted with extra expenses like healthcare, menstrual care and beauty products. Be sure to factor these expenses into your overall budget for the most comprehensive and holistic report possible.

If a paper ledger isn’t your thing, there are still options for you. Jennifer Walden, director of operations at WikiLawn, says digital budgeting can help you out.

“Even low-cost budgeting software is worth the investment. We all think we know what we’re spending, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t without a budget staring us in the face,” Walden says.

Budgeting apps like Mint make it easy to track your spending with your mobile phone. While financial awareness is always important, unemployment is an opportune time to get in tune with your finances and cut out extraneous spending.

Review your current debts

Studies show that women often have a more difficult time than men with managing debt.

Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com, says the gender wage gap and a lack of women-driven financial literacy resources contribute to this disparity.

“Since the median annual income for women is 80% of the median annual income for men, women unfortunately have to work that much harder to get out of debt,” says Rossman.

An important first step is to prioritize the debt that is most important to pay off. Often, paying off the highest interest debt first is beneficial. For many, this is credit card debt.

See related: Debt payoff debate: Pay smallest balance 1st? Or highest rate?

Because of the pandemic, many card issuers have implemented relief policies. Some are waiving fees and including deferred payment options. Contacting your card provider may help you access these benefits.

Request a credit report

Prospective employers may run a credit check during the interview process. Stay one step ahead of them and put the ball in your court by requesting a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Once you assess the report, you can more easily track your finances and know where you stand going into unemployment. It can also keep you aware of what may be holding back your credit score and opportunities for improvement.

Maximize extra income

Are there any activities you like to do in your spare time? No matter the skill, there could be more ways to monetize it than you think.

See related: Side hustle: Why your credit score, credit card use matter

Olga Zakharchuk, founder and CEO of parental finance website BabySchooling, says now is the perfect opportunity to get your side hustle on.

“A side gig that brings in even just a few hundred dollars a week can make a big difference for a family with multiple mouths to feed,” Zakharchuk says.

Online marketplaces like Etsy and Poshmark can be a great avenue for selling crafts and clothes at your desired price. Additionally, you could offer private lessons in any skills like music or professional development for some extra cash.

Tap into your savings strategically

Unemployment is one of the main reasons why people save rainy-day money. Having an emergency fund is important, and now is the time to tap into it.

April Lewis-Parks, director of education and corporate communications at Consolidated Credit, says liquid savings, like money market accounts or stocks and bonds, are fair game if you have unemployment money coming in.

However, she advises against tapping into retirement accounts unless completely necessary.

“That’s a little more severe because compound interest is real and tax penalties are still real. By doing the math, it’s not the best thing to do if you have other options,” Lewis-Parks says.

Take advantage of unemployment benefits

Applying for unemployment may seem daunting. Each state seems to have different application processes that are confusing and complex. This is especially true when considering that women are often treated unfairly throughout the application process.

According to the National Employment Law Project, men are more likely to receive unemployment insurance benefits than women in 41 states.

This impact is especially apparent for low-income women. The NELP also found that employees who are let go from lower-wage jobs are up to 44% less likely to qualify for unemployment.

Despite these hurdles, it is important to still fight for your right to unemployment compensation. Listed are tips you can take advantage of when applying for unemployment.

  • File a claim as soon as you can. This will help you reap the benefits as early as possible.
  • Be sure to file your claim with the state in which you worked.
  • Compile important forms and information before you begin to apply. Ensuring that all the information is accurate and valid will mitigate any delays to the approval.
  • Document your application process from the beginning, including dates, times and screenshots. If your approval is delayed, keeping a record of the process may help you be retroactively compensated starting when you submitted the application.

The coronavirus pandemic has beefed up unemployment policies across the country. However, it is important to remember that these policies vary widely among states, according to Pew Research Center.

Here are three federal programs affecting family leave and unemployment insurance during the pandemic:

Capitalizing on these benefits will help supplement your savings while you search for a new job.

Get ready for the job hunt

The job market amid coronavirus looks very different from a few months ago. Fewer companies might be hiring, and where companies are still hiring or pre-hiring, candidates have to master a whole new set of skills – from flawlessly navigating multiple Zoom interviews to getting their resume past screening algorithms and into actual human hands.

As you launch into the strenuous process of finding a new job, it is important to consider potential long-term effects.

For instance, even though you are currently unemployed, you should not be settling for the first job that sends you an offer. Rex Freiberger, president of GadgetReview, says women are less likely than men to apply for jobs where they don’t meet all of the qualifications.

“Women facing unemployment right now should proceed with the utmost confidence, even if they don’t necessarily feel it. Apply to jobs even if you aren’t 100% qualified according to the posting. Advocate boldly for yourself, and don’t be afraid to play up your strengths in the interview.”

If you are trying to fill the gaps in your portfolio due to periods of unemployment, you can try out LinkedIn Learning courses. The courses will display on your LinkedIn profile, showing potential employers that you acquired new skills and have put forth tangible effort to stay productive while you are out of a job.

Balance other duties

Unemployment and a job search bring unique challenges to women. Before the pandemic, women in two-income families still did the majority of housework and childcare. And absent hard evidence to the contrary, some experts suspect that’s still happening.

See related: Balancing financial priorities: Why it’s OK to put yourself first

“The lack of separation between work and housework is effecting women more,” says Pintea. “What needs to be done in the house – women are more likely to do it.”

Stefania Albanesi, professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, agrees. “When you look at the time devoted to the children, the mother is spending more time with children doing activities,” she says. “Women are spending more time than men. And that hasn’t really changed over time.”

The pandemic has also minimized opportunities for daycare and schooling. This means that, more often than not, working women also must bear the brunt of child care.

This has an unfortunate economic side effect for women: It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Pintea.

The more women value a partner’s job over their own, the fewer hours and productivity they have to give for their own jobs – and the fewer opportunities for raises or advancement they’re likely to see, she says.

“Not just the loss of income over a year, it’s loss of income over one year plus lost opportunities for building the future,” Pintea says.

A silver lining, if you can call it that, is that the pandemic has led many white-collar industries to engineer ways for employees to work from home.

Albanesi said employers are realizing that work-from-home can be effective even after the pandemic ends.

This means remote opportunities are growing in the future and may be a viable option for you, especially if you find yourself with other household duties on top of your career.

Final thoughts

Unemployment can be an immensely stressful time, especially for women.

Confronting the obstacles of setbacks in the workplace, less access to unemployment benefits and child care can be taxing, to say the least.

Women often have trouble prioritizing themselves and their own needs, especially because society sees women as “caregivers” above all. Nonetheless, it is incredibly important to take mental breaks for yourself throughout this process. Be sure you are regularly implementing stress-relief techniques into your daily schedule.

This looks different among everyone; for some women, it’s catching up with a friend. For others, it’s reading a good book. Or it could just be a morning meditation.

Remind yourself that you are resilient, you are strong and that you will make it through this obstacle.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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