Coming Off Unemployment? 3 Moves to Make

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 14, 2021

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If you're starting a job after months of collecting unemployment benefits, here are some essential steps to take.

Many Americans have been on unemployment during the pandemic, and there were definitely points over the past year and a half when job opportunities were difficult to come by. But now, the job market is looking up. As of June, the U.S. economy had over 10 million job openings, according to CNN. So you may have recently found a job after months of living on jobless benefits alone.

Going from unemployment benefits to a paycheck from work is a big step. Here are three moves to make as you navigate that transition.

1. Set up a budget based on your new paycheck

You may be used to living on a certain sum of money based on your weekly unemployment checks. But now that you'll be working, your income may change -- for better or for worse.

Ideally, you'll land in the former situation. But because many states have been paying jobless workers an extra $300 a week, you may see a dip in your income. Either way, it's important to see what your paycheck will be, and then use that number to set up a budget. You may have more or less wiggle room to spend on expenses than you did while you were on unemployment, so it's wise to figure that out before you start spending on things you can't afford.

2. Set a monthly savings goal

It's a smart idea to not spend your entire paycheck every month. By consistently putting money into your savings account, you'll buy yourself some protection for financial emergencies.

Take a look at your income, compare that to the expenses mapped out in your budget, and figure out how much you can afford to save each month. You may want to automate your savings to help yourself stay on target. You can do so by arranging for a portion of each paycheck to go directly from your checking account to your savings. And if you're working for a company that offers a 401(k), you can also sign up for that retirement plan and sock money away for the future.

3. Figure out if you need a side hustle

Unfortunately, you could end up earning less money once you stop collecting unemployment and begin working. Or, you may be getting a higher salary, but between taxes and deductions, your take-home pay isn't as high as you'd hoped.

As you adjust to your new routine, figure out if a side hustle could serve you well. These days, there's a host of flexible gigs to choose from. If you don't have a lot of time to dedicate to a second job, you might find one that'll only take up a few hours a week, like driving for a rideshare company.

As more jobs become available, more Americans may come off of unemployment and enjoy a regular paycheck instead. If you'll be doing the same, be sure to tackle these key moves to stay on top of your personal finances.

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