COVID-19 has been battering the U.S. economy since domestic cases first started increasing in March. Since then, unemployment has reached record levels and countless small businesses have closed their doors due to financial issues or local mandates.
It's not shocking, then, to learn that 47% of workers are now afraid of losing a job at some point this year, as per a recent report by Jobvite. By contrast, only 28% shared the same concern back in February, before COVID-19 really took hold in the U.S.
If you're worried about losing your job, you're clearly in good company. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for that possibility -- or possibly avoid it.
1. See how you're doing on emergency savings
We're often told to have money in the bank for an unplanned expense or financial emergency -- and a layoff in the midst of a pandemic certainly qualifies as the latter. Under normal circumstances, you're in decent shape if you have enough money in savings to cover three months of living expenses, but due to the economic crisis at hand, having six months of living expenses available is a better bet.
If you're worried about losing your job but are still working now, make an effort to sock away as much of your incoming paychecks as you can. Cutting back on discretionary spending isn't easy, in general, and it's certainly not an easy thing to do during a pandemic when modest purchases may buy you comfort. But if you're lacking in emergency savings, it's essential that you make that sacrifice.
2. Figure out what you'll do for health insurance
Many people get health insurance through their jobs, so losing yours could mean having to pay for coverage on your own. Though you'll generally have the option to retain your current health plan through COBRA, that may prove to be prohibitively expensive. As such, you may want to start researching options on healthcare.gov, just in case.
3. Boost your job skills
The more valuable an employee you are, the less likely you are to be first on the chopping block if your employer needs to lay off staff. Think about the skills you may be lacking in, and work on improving them. At the same time, aim to take on more responsibility at work and focus on tasks that are truly essential to daily operations or your company's bottom line.
4. Get a remote side gig
Normally, getting a second job is pretty easy -- you can sign up to walk dogs, babysit children, or drive for a ridesharing company. These days, not only are those jobs hard to come by, but they also potentially put your safety at risk. But if you're able to line up a side job you can do from home -- say, online tutoring, web design, or even billing -- you'll buy yourself some income security in the event you're laid off this year.
The idea of losing a job during a pandemic is scary, but it may be some people's reality -- especially if the economy stays largely shut down for months on end. The more you do to prepare for that possibility, the more peace of mind you'll buy for yourself.