The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

October 21, 2013

The Color of Money: Getting ready for the next time

Furloughed federal workers have been promised that they will be paid once the government opens again.

     Even so, let me offer some advice to those people with jobs they thought were secure. Do what you can, as soon as you can, to create an emergency fund. Make it a priority.

     Yes, you’ve heard this before. Yet here we are again, and workers across the country, including non-federal employees and government contractors whose incomes were also affected by the shutdown, are feeling the financial pain after missing one paycheck or getting just a partial paycheck.

     The Washington Post asked people to participate in an online survey about how the shutdown had impacted them. Almost two-thirds said it had affected them daily or threatened their livelihood. Here’s what some workers wrote:

     -- Calif.: “Check to Check, like most folks these days. Furlough put me back even deeper.”

     -- Colo.: “Just worked out our budgets though Nov. 15 -- half a paycheck this pay period and at this point no paycheck by Nov. 1 -- currently over $300 in the hole and seeking delays to monthly payment for car, insurance, credit, student loans, mortgage.”

     -- Va.: “No work equals no pay. No savings equals bad, really bad.”

     -- Mass.: “I am a federal employee supporting a spouse in graduate school with student loans of my own to pay. Even if I get back pay, paying the immediate bills will be a significant challenge. One of the reasons I was attracted to this job was because of its ‘stability.’”

     With all due respect, the shutdown should be a wake-up call for all of us. You can’t count on your job always being there, even in positions or careers that have historically been viewed as unemployment-proof.

     I say this because often in financial workshops I have conducted, some participants, government workers in particular, would argue they didn’t really need to worry about having several months of expenses saved up. They felt secure in their jobs. Or I would get push-back from people who believed they couldn’t lose their jobs and therefore didn’t need to put away three to six months of living expenses.

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