Money Matters with Nimi

Bamidele is 52 years old and is a senior executive in a multinational company. He lives with his wife Tope and their three children in a four-bedroom luxury apartment in Ikoyi. The apartment comes with a gym and swimming pool, a children’s play area, tennis and squash courts, a water treatment plant, and a generator. Bamidele is entitled to two company cars, both with drivers, and an extra car for “madam”.

His “perks” also include two business class tickets a year to Europe, free medical care for him and his family, and they have a housekeeper, a nanny, and a “washer man” in their employ. Tope does not work, as she often has to travel to visit the children, two of whom are in boarding school in England. Bamidele has been a little complacent about saving and investing; since the company takes care of most things, this hasn’t really been an issue. Apart from the pension savings in his Retirement Savings Account, he owns a plot of land on Lekki Phase I which he will get round to developing so that his family can move in to their own home before he retires in eight years time at the age of sixty.

Bamidele’s boss pulls him aside one day to tell him that the company is facing a serious downturn in its fortunes and will be going through a restructuring exercise; Bamidele’s position will no longer exist; they will have to let him go. In these days of “restructuring’ ‘downsizing’ and “retrenchment”, the term job security has become obsolete and long-term employment is not guaranteed. Job loss ranks as one of life’s most challenging events. Successfully coping with a layoff requires actively addressing certain issues. Some of these include, adjusting your finances, looking for a new job, as well as coping with the emotional and social impacts of your new situation. It would be much easier to deal with it financially and emotionally if you’ve prepared for the worst by planning ahead but even if you failed to anticipate this sudden change in your circumstances, here are some practical steps to take if you find yourself unemployed.

Don’t Panic

When you think about all the bills and monthly expenses you have to face without a steady income, it is easy to despair. Try to remain calm, and do not rush into any major financial decisions whilst you assess your situation; you need a clear, positive outlook. Even if you are eligible, be cautious about dipping into your retirement savings account.

Do you have any savings? How much money have you saved? How long will it last based on your monthly bills? The importance of an emergency fund becomes glaring in situations like this. If you have been able to set aside, say, six months of income in a high-yield money market account, you will be able to pay some of your bills and relieve some of the financial stress while you look for a new job. But if you have always lived from month to month, this may not be an option.

What are Your Entitlements?

What do your full entitlements amount to? If you have no savings at all and you are fortunate enough to receive severance pay or other benefits, use this as a bridge to tide you over the difficult period. Spend carefully, and do not use all of your entitlements to make large payments, such as to pay your mortgage, as you might have to live off that money for what could be an extended period of time. Don’t let such funds lull you into complacency; you need to actively seek a new job or other income- generating opportunities.
Revise Your Budget

How best can you adjust your budget to suit your new circumstances? Develop a new written budget that will cover several months of unemployment based on what you have saved and any expected income. How much will it cost to maintain your family, your home, and your lifestyle? Keep your family members fully in the picture so that they too can adjust their expectations about what you can afford. You will have to control your spending by cutting back on nonessential expenses. Sit down with the members of your family and list all expenses.Determine which ones can be eliminated, reduced or deferred. Naturally your priority will be for housing, food, utility bills. Of major concern would be the lack of access to affordable insurance and appropriate healthcare. These must also be planned for.

Be Cautious About Borrowing

It is tempting for credit card holders to start to load day-to-day expenses on their cards. Try to avoid doing this except when absolutely necessary and only for critically important expenses that cannot be delayed. Making on additional debt can keep you in denial about your true financial situation and make things worse.

If you are unable to fulfill your financial obligations, such as paying your mortgage or repaying a car loan, contact your lenders immediately, and inform them that you have lost your job and are actively seeking new employment. It may be possible to negotiate new terms and come to an arrangement to adjust your payments for a limited period of time, particularly if you have always maintained a respectable credit standing. It is better to approach them upfront rather than fall behind with your payments. If you default on your home or vehicle loan, your bank will take steps to repossess your property.

Stay Socially Connected

Some people feel embarrassed or inadequate after losing a job. Don’t withdraw and let negative feelings stop you from taking important steps; you need your network composed of professionals and non- professionals now more than ever before. Reach out to family, friends,ex-colleagues, and to people within your network, and spread the word that you are in the job market. By seeking support you may find they are aware of new opportunities for you. Your CV should be carefully updated and circulated.

Seek Alternative Sources of Income

With the sheer number of people currently searching for work, you need to cast your net wide,and not just for the same type of job. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a specific role or job. Be practical and flexible so you can increase your chances of finding work. Consider temporary or part-time work that will generate income and give you the time and flexibility to attend job interviews and actively pursue a more permanent position. This might be a time to upgrade your skills or to go back to school, which would help to enhance your resume. If you have alternate sources of income, you will be in a much more comfortable position should you lose your job. Your hobbies, talents and skills, and other interests may be converted to a business and offer real possibilities for income.

Remain Positive

Apart from the financial issues associated with job loss, there are usually emotional and personal aspects that are too often ignored. Whether yours was the only position that was cut,or an entire unit or department, the feelings caused by being laid off are largely the same regardless of the circumstances. Many people experience a loss of self- esteem, a sense of failure, and even depression after retrenchment.

But it’s important to take your next steps based on clear rational thought, devoid of emotion. As difficult as this may sound, one should try to view this period of unemployment as a positive event, an opportunity to reevaluate your future and, potentially, change your career or start anew business. Losing your employment may well be the impetus, just what you need to take afresh look at your life and to redefine your goals. Often, it is times like this that propel people into greater things.

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