What to do if you lose your job

March 5, 2009 4:46:25 PM PST
With the unemployment rate rising, you may be worried about the security of your job. But there are things you can do now to prepare yourself, and avoid financial disaster should you find yourself out of work. [FIND A JOB: Look for job openings in the Houston area]

Anthea Zeimann said, "When we were told that the companies were going to be merging and a lot of us were going to lose our jobs, of course you panic."

The investment banking firm Zeimann worked for went down in flames last year. She's still out of work and she faces foreclosure on her home. Consumer Reports' money adviser Greg Daugherty says here's what to do if you think you're about to lose your job.

"If you have any inkling that your job may be in trouble, you should try to find out what your company will offer you if it lets you go," Daugherty explained.

See if your company offers a severance package. That could provide from a couple of weeks to six months full pay.

Daugherty said, "You can usually take severance as a series of payments, which can have tax advantages. But, take it as a lump sum if you think your company might fail anytime soon."

Also ask if you may continue your company's health insurance by paying for the premiums yourself under a program called COBRA. Then check how that compares to buying insurance on your own or joining your spouse's program.

"If the worst does happen and you're fired, apply immediately for unemployment insurance benefits because it could take two to three weeks for you to get your first check," Daugherty advised.

Zeimann is now getting advice from a free counseling organization called Score to help start a small business. She hopes to turn her chili recipe into a big seller.

"I'd like one day for you to go into your supermarket, your local supermarket, and see my chili there," Zeimann said. "I make great chili. Best chili in the world. The best chili."

The counseling organization Score helps connect people who want to start a small business with retired business professionals and other volunteers. They do have an office here in Houston.

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