May 1, 2020
By Sarah Short, Financial Education Specialist

I’ve lost my job. Now what?

If you lose your job, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of panic and hopelessness. It’s important to remember, though, that there are some actions you can take to help mitigate financial hardships and worry. If you’ve lost your job, here are 8 things you should do right away.

  1. File for unemployment.

  2. Request postponed or reduced payments.

  3. Review your retirement plans.

  4. Find new health insurance.

  5. Adjust your budget

  6. Update your resume

  7. Apply for a new job

  8. Take care of your mental health


File for Unemployment

Applying for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits allows you to receive temporary income while you search for a new job. You should apply for these benefits as soon as you are laid off to avoid losing benefits. While you would typically have to wait one full week before you receive payments, if you are unemployed due to COVID-19, New York State has waived this waiting period.

It is important to note that you must be actively searching for a job while applying and collecting UI benefits. Visit to complete your application for benefits. Be prepared with your NY government ID and all necessary documents that are listed in the Things You Need To File Your Claim section of the Ny.Gov website.

Be patient with the process. When unemployment spikes, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, online applications and approval processes take more time. Try not to let frustration eat at you.

Request Postponed or Reduced Payments

With your income drastically reduced or stopped completely, it is likely that you will struggle to make your usual payments. Make a prioritized list of all bills that you pay each month including but not limited to:

  • Mortgage/rent

  • Utilities

  • Insurance

  • Car payment

  • Credit card payments

  • Student loans

Go through the list and contact each lender or company and explain your current financial situation. Requesting a temporary deferment or reduction in payment can help you manage your finances, protect your credit, and reduce worry. A lot of people hesitate to contact their lenders because of fear, embarrassment, or a belief that their lender won’t want to help them. Remember that the lenders will more than likely be willing to work with you to establish an agreeable approach to repaying your loans. It’s important to them that you stay as financially healthy as possible. The worst thing to do when you’re struggling with your bills is to avoid your lender. If you don’t reach out, they won’t be able to help you.

A deferment is a period of time during which you don’t need to make payments. Interest may or may not accrue during a deferment, so it’s important to clarify that with your lender. The length of a deferment varies by financial institution and individual need.

Hear tips for navigating financial uncertainty from an expert in the field. MHV’s Loss Mitigation Manager joins episode 2 of MHV’s podcast Off the Trail. Listen now.

Review Your Retirement Plans

If you have an active 401(k) or Pension with your former place of employment, it is important to review those plans in detail upon being laid off or furloughed. Read plan documents to ensure that you are not losing hard earned dollars towards your retirement, specifically around vested funds. Some retirement plans allow for hardship withdrawals and loans, which could provide you with emergency cash. Contact your human resources department to review your options.

If you have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), new laws have been passed in response to COVID-19 in regards to early distributions. You may be able to waive your required minimum distribution or withdraw from your retirement account early without any penalties. Consider meeting with a trusted financial advisor to explore your options and decide which is best for you.

Find New Health Insurance

There are still health insurance options available to you if you’ve lost your job. Some employers will offer you COBRA which allows you to continue your coverage but requires payment out-of-pocket. Alternatively, you may qualify for coverage under one of New York’s health insurance plans. Your household size and income determine what you are eligible for and how much help you’ll get with paying for coverage. It is important to determine your total household income, including unemployment insurance and spousal income. Learn more about New York’s health plans, click here.

Adjust Your Budget 

Cutting back on unnecessary spending right now is a must. If you currently use a budget, it’s time to revisit it and cut out any “extras.” You have to dig deep and be honest about these cuts: you may feel like you need streaming movie services but eliminating that expense from your budget frees up needed cash.

If you don’t have a budget, consider creating one to help you determine where your money is going, how you can continue to save, and how to develop a spending plan. Even the smallest savings add up and can be a huge help during difficult financial times. To learn more about how to budget, watch our webinar Build a Basic Budget and download our free budget tool.

Update Your Resume

Now is the time to update your resume so that you are prepared to apply for new jobs. Having the right tools at your disposal and a strong resume is essential to moving to the front of the line when applying for a new position. Look for classes or certifications to boost your resume; many schools and organizations are offering free or reduced-cost options. Don’t forget to include any volunteer work to give yourself well rounded representation.

► Pro Tip: Find My Career put together a list of free resume review tools. Use them to make sure your resume leads the pack.

Apply For a New Job

Armed with a strong resume, now’s the time to start looking for new jobs. Actively job hunting is also required to maintain unemployment benefits. Here are some key pointers to maximize your job search.

  • Check out websites like and to start your job search. Post your resume to job boards to have employers find you based on your skillset.

  • Networking with area professionals will be critical. Many businesses and Chambers of Commerce offer online networking opportunities.

    Networking to Find a New Job

  • Reach out to your contacts and keep your LinkedIn profile up to date (or set one up if you don’t currently have one) so you’re not missing out on any potential career opportunities.

  • Consider positions that are hiring the most right now due to the current economic state. This doesn’t mean you should completely abandon your dream career, just keep an open mind to positions that will be best for your financial security.

  • Be wary of "too-good-to-be-true" offers. Scammers will often capitalize on someone's need for employment to lure them into fraud. For example, mystery shopping, while it can be legitimate in certain instances, is a very commonly used tactic by fraudsters to turn you into a victim. While the "job" may seem mysterious and exciting, it is simply a ruse to get you to send them money. The scammers will send you a "check" and then ask you to wire money to their "associate" through a transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram; or they will ask you to buy thousands of dollars of gift cards, scratch off the back of the cards, and send them the card information. Only after you do so, the check is returned as counterfeit, and you have suffered a large loss! Be on guard if the job requirements include purchasing gift cards to send to the "employer" or wiring or transferring any amount of money.

Watch out for job offers that require you to purchase gift cards or wire/transfer any amount of money.


Take Care of Your Mental Health

During times of financial and economic turmoil, it’s easy to focus on the negative. Take time for yourself and evaluate your mental health. Without a strong, clear mind, making important financial and life decisions is more difficult and more dangerous. Anxiety contributes to poor decision making. There are several mental health resources available to you and we’ve listed a few on our COVID-19 Resources Page.

Check out our webinar “Managing Money in Times of Crisis & Uncertainty” for tips on how to save and remain financially secure when money is tight.


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