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Keep Your Benefits—and Your Sanity—When the Pink Slip Arrives

Unfortunately, at this point in the global economic crisis, most of us know at least one relative, close personal friend, neighbor or colleague who has suffered a job loss. To say the downsizing has been widespread is an understatement. In fact, according to the Globe & Mail, Canadian companies have laid off workers at a faster pace this year than they did in the early days of past recessions.

So I was sympathetic, but not shocked, when an old college buddy reached out to say he'd received the dreaded pink slip. Up until now, he had been fast-tracked to positions of increasing authority within a multi-national firm. He was the sole breadwinner, as his wife had stayed home to care for their three school-age children.

Over lunch, Bob and I discussed his concerns, which ranged from severance to networking. Through it all, I admired Bob's level-headedness. Far from a deer in the headlights, he had a clear plan well-suited to his engineering background. We discussed his RRSP as well as his current debt load. Then I asked him about replacing his health and dental coverage—especially critical since it might take him some time to find a comparable position.

Bob assumed that because he had experienced some health issues, securing stand-alone private coverage would be out of reach. Fortunately, there is one private company in the market that offers full health and dental coverage without medical evidence as long as you apply within 30 days of losing your existing coverage. Bob and I reviewed his eligibility and luckily he was still within the window to sign-up.

Bob's experience demonstrates how important it is to stay calm and focused in the face of a lay-off. Although it's a time of great uncertainty and heightened emotion, panicking can cloud the picture. From a personal financial standpoint, there are a range of issues to consider and it's best to reach out early in the process.

With the unemployment rate rising, there will likely be more lay-offs before the recovery arrives. If you find yourself on the street, take some time to digest what's happened and regroup. Then make sure you get some professional advice from a trusted source who can help you think through the next steps with clarity and focus. What you do now can make all the difference down the road.

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