What is it like to lose your job?

Many people lose their jobs or face reduced working hours through no fault of their own, and often feel a loss of control and uncertainty about the future. These are normal reactions and to be expected when there’s suddenly less money with which to manage.

If you find yourself uncertain about your ongoing or future employment, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. For many the change is a shock; for others it’s something of an opportunity.

Adjusting to the change

Those who experience a loss of income have to make decisions about what’s important and what doesn’t really matter when it comes to spending. And as they do so, they’re building a deeper understanding of their finances and how to manage their money and their debts.

Some people may only experience a temporary change in their finances. They’ll be asked to work fewer hours or perhaps cut back to a three or four-day week to avoid retrenchment. Changes like these create uncertainty and can be very stressful. You’ll be in the best position to cope with your change of circumstances if you take early action.

To equip yourself to get through the uncertainty and cope with the changes you need to do all you can to understand your rights, look after yourself, manage your bills and debts, and focus on the future you want to create.

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Coping emotionally

Losing your job and working reduced hours are big life changes that are likely to make you feel upset, anxious and concerned about the future. Coping with job loss may leave you disoriented when the familiar structure of your days and weeks is gone. You may have a sense of loss of direction and feel a degree of social isolation. It’s certainly a time of great challenge. You need to remember to be kind to yourself.

Some people experience feelings of anxiety and depression. This is very normal. It’s important for you to share your feelings with the people who care about you, and get in touch with people and services that can help. Help with the emotional adjustment is also available from other sources (including Beyond Blue and Lifeline).

You may be tempted to withdraw to an extent when your normal working routine is interrupted like this. But keeping active, having a healthy diet and getting enough sleep can all help you to get a greater sense of control. The Victorian Government’s Better Health program has a range of tips for healthy eating and physical exercise. You might like to trial their activities and recipes to keep yourself in the best possible shape as you adjust to your change of circumstances.

When you lose your job or your hours are reduced it’s best to look at the change as an opportunity to take stock of where you are in life, and where you want to go. Considering your situation carefully and logically can’t be rushed. Allow yourself a period of adjustment before you make any decisions about your future.

Recognise that you have options at this time, even though your emotions might cloud them initially. If you take control early and avoid getting into a panic, you may be surprised at how empowering your first steps towards deciding the direction of your future career and lifestyle can be.

The task ahead involves a lot of work and may, at times, require a lot of energy. You’ll possibly find yourself in unfamiliar territory where you need to learn new skills and coping strategies. The energy, effort and persistence you bring to bear will be important in setting you on your way to achieving greater financial stability.

And help is just a phone call or an email away.

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Assessing where you’re at

Don’t take the fact of losing your job personally. Your job was made redundant, not you. Stay calm and allow yourself adjustment time. This does not mean doing nothing. Concentrate on taking stock, and putting yourself in the best position rather than worrying about what you cannot change. Take the time to update your resume and keep in touch with your friends.

You will still be responsible for your bills and debts, even though your income is reduced. This means you will have to look for ways to reduce your spending. Some of your creditors may be willing to offer you flexible payment arrangements if you contact their hardship departments. You’ll have to find a way to keep up with your utility bills, household purchases and other costs such as medical bills or child maintenance as well as your day-to-day expenses.

Familiarise yourself with your Centrelink entitlements and rights, and with available help and support services.

Your options for future employment if you are retrenched depend on several things including:

  • your stage of life
  • your personal and family priorities
  • your skills and finances.

If you receive a lump sum, you’ll have to make decisions about how you’ll manage it so it carries you through to re-employment. Receiving a pay-out might also allow you to consider:

  • taking a break from working
  • taking a new career direction
  • the possibility of retiring earlier than you had planned.

Job loss affects all parts of your life, all at the same time. It puts you under a lot of pressure and you might be overwhelmed. You don’t have to face this change alone. Help by way of Professional advice is available, and MoneyHelp offers a free financial counselling service for Victorians in your position.

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Living with less income

A change in your circumstances creates a perfect opportunity to develop an understanding of your money and how it works. This is not easy and requires attention to detail. It probably means preparing a snapshot of your finances, working out how you’ll spend the money you have, and bringing your debts under greater control.

You may have to forego some of the purchases you may have enjoyed in the past, and find more economical ways for food, clothing and transport. MoneyHelp’s Money Tips have many suggestions about ways to spend less. You might also sell off any assets that you no longer need to get extra funds to help manage day-to-day expenses.

It’s important you ask for professional advice if you have no spare cash and you’re worried you can’t pay for necessities such as food and shelter.

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