Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh Crap: Can I Survive Unemployment?!

Through no fault of my own I may be forced to find a new job in the immediate future. This is something I should have seen coming for a while now. In fact, I have been engaged in a passive job search since last February. Since I'm in a government-job, however, I decided my best option was to wait out the appointment list I am on for the position that I wanted. I put out feelers to a couple of jobs in the private sector but out of the three interviews I went on, one job was completely not what I wanted and the other two didn't hire me (despite one leading me on for several agonizing months). Because of the very specialized nature of my work I am limited in the number of jobs available that I want to take as well as the ones for which I am qualified.

Recent events have made my job more vulnerable than I ever expected it would be. Though I am a government employee, I do not have civil service protection as most others do. This means I can be terminated at will just like everyone else in the private sector. The appointment list I am on would provide a more secure position but alas I am stuck on the list hoping for a position at this point. (Budget cuts and workers of retirement age not retiring are the source of this problem BTW).

So what do you do when what was supposed to be a recession-proof job is no longer safe? You look for other jobs of course. I've been doing that and I don't want to get off the path that I have charted for myself but I no longer have the luxury of being as picky as I used to be. Also I have started to think about what would happen if I was forced into unemployment.

Here's the numbers:

I currently earn $2270 a month, more in the glorious 3-paycheck months.
My fixed expenses are:

Rent - 725
Utilities - 90 (assuming continuation of Payment Agreement)
Cell - 65
Student Loans - 406
Collections - 385
Credit Card Minimum - 15

Total fixed expenses = $1686 a month. This is assuming No Groceries, No Hobby, No Savings, and No Debt Payment to Boyfriend, etc.

The maximum unemployment benefit in New York is $405 a week, for a total of $1620/month.

Once I am unemployed, I could defer my student loan payments, thus bringing my total monthly fixed expenses to $1280, giving me a meager but manageable $340 a month for food, clothes and other necessities. But wait, not so fast! If I were to become unemployed I would need to start paying COBRA health insurance which would be at least $400 a month!

So I'm sorta freaking out right now. I won't know what the future will bringing for at least a couple of days and at most a couple of months but the numbers speak for themselves: I cannot afford to lose my job. Period. I will literally have to take ANY job that has health insurance and pays more than $420 a week. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

don't worry about buying the rip off COBRA coverage. At your age, you can get decent health insurance for about $50/mo.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same boat. My company is closing down several branches. It could be me. I'm a little nervous.

Anonymous said...

Don't fall for COBRA. Check for different plans. The cheapest plan on there for me is $56/mo.

Miss M said...

I've been unemployed before and it sucked, I survived partially on credit cards. The max benefit in California is $450 a week, it mostly covered my expenses then but wouldn't come close now that I have a mortgage. I went without health insurance that time but I was healthy with no real medical issues. Some people can't go without coverage and if you have any medical problems you might not get coverage on the private market. My experience with private insurance was they completely excluded coverage for the one sorta health issue I had and charged 3 times the quoted rate.

Sunflowers said...

Oh no! :( I hope everything works out...

And I agree with the others - don't pay for COBRA. When I quit my job, I went straight through Blue Cross instead and am now paying about $90/mo for a PPO (but I could've gotten an HMO for much less).

DogAteMyFinances said...

You usually have a few months to make a decision on COBRA and then it's retroactive. Don't panic!

Shtinkykat said...

OMG. I thought all government jobs were recession proof. I agree with dogatemyfinances - don't panic, though and don't make rash decisions. You do have a valuable degree. Even if you are laid off, you may be able to find private sector work that you may not want (e.g., bankruptcy attorney, workers compensation attorney). But how I see it is that you'll acquire a new marketable skill in the interim. For now, network, network, network.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we are just so screwed by living in NYC. The cheap health insurance everyone mentions - guess what? Not available in NY. You might get a cheap HMO for about $230/month, just to tie you over. But I agree with DogAteMyFinances - take advantage of the 60-day grace period with COBRA.

Unemployment in NY is still $405 a week max, eh? That's what it was in 2002 when I was collecting, and the cost of living here has gone up by over 25%. Grr. Also, you only get the full $405 if that's 50% of your gross income. If your annual gross is less than ~$38-40K, you won't see the full $405. Also, tick the box that says "no withholding of income taxes", because what you've already paid will more than cover your obligation for the year.

Stephanie said...

Yes, NY is a guaranteed issue state, so all of us young people get to subsidize older unhealthy people who decided they didn't need health insurance (until they actually got sick). Just fabulous if you ask me.

Escape Brooklyn said...

This may be rushing things a bit in your personal life, but as an emergency last resort could you move in with your boyfriend if you get laid off? That would save you $725/month for rent and $90/month for utilities.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't come to that, of course!

Sallie's Niece said...

God yes I run those numbers in my head at least once a month. We're pretty much "ready" for the move but my folks aren't. I also wanted to have an emergency fund saved up by the time I moved.