What If You Had to Quit Working Today?

Suppose you found out that today was going to be your last day of work for the foreseeable future — maybe even for a couple of years. Would you panic, celebrate, or something in between? (Financially speaking, that is.)

While you may not be planning on leaving your job today, that kind of situation is exactly what happens to many people each year due to layoffs or other circumstances. Which makes it smart to think about what kind of shape you’d be in if it happened to you.

The short-term impact

Short-term, of course, you’d probably be under some emotional stress. Even if you hate your job or had been planning on quitting it anyway, it can be stressful to actually receive the news that you can no longer go in to work.

Things are always easier when they’re your decision instead of being forced upon you. Recognize that you’ll probably feel at least a little bit lost or disconcerted — even if you’d been secretly daydreaming about what things would be like if you didn’t have to go to work any longer. And if you actually like your job or are totally surprised by the news, it can be very emotional.

That’s another reason it’s good to have a financial contingency plan in place now, while your point of view isn’t colored by sudden emotions or shock. If you do already know how you would handle things money-wise, the first thing to do would be to give yourself a few days to adjust to the situation. If you don’t — or if you’re forced to quit due to something like an accident — you might not have that luxury.

The long-term impact

The long-term impact of job loss, especially one that you’re not able to quickly recover from can be financially devastating and stressful. To minimize that potential impact, start by taking stock of what your minimum required expenses are now, while you still have a job. See what you can cut, if need be, and how quickly you would need to make those cuts.

This is where using the zero-based budgeting method can really help, especially if you prioritize your spending. Many people realize there are areas they could cut back on if they really had to, but don’t actually make the cuts in a timely manner. They keep telling themselves that they’ll be back to work soon, but bleed cash in the meantime. Better to make some cuts now, and set a schedule by which you’ll make other cutbacks.

Of course, having an pile of emergency cash that’s readily accessible is an excellent idea. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, make building one a priority. (See emergency fund strategies to help you pile up cash for ideas.) We’ve all got to start somewhere, so any amount that you can set aside will help, but speaking as someone who ended up being unemployed for years, it can make a huge difference if you’re able to make that fund stretch for a long, long time.

Pursue other income sources

Pursuing other income sources is another thing that’s good to do now, especially passive income ideas. Why do it now, while you’re able to work and aren’t seeing any issues on the horizon? Well, because you can, and because it takes time to get a passive income flowing. Do it now while things are going well, and best case is that they will only get better.

Cover all the bases

Make sure you’re investing, and that you have adequate insurance. (And if you’ve gotten laid off, see if you qualify for COBRA, get signed up for your spouse’s insurance if you’re able, and/or get a private health plan going.)

Plan ahead, just in case

In other words, today is an excellent time to make plans for how you would handle an unexpected job loss. Don’t forget to include things like making sure a trusted relative or friend could temporarily take over your finances if need be.

Planning ahead for the worst won’t make it happen, but you’ll be glad you did if you do need to put your plan into action. And if it doesn’t, you’ll be in that much better shape financially. It can only help you to do so.


  • I think I would just dive in and try the entrepreneur route. I’ve always thought about it, but I have a great job so there is no reason to rush off.

    • That’s what I did when I got laid off back in 2001. I was actually pretty happy about it. That changed a few years later though when my businesses did not turn out well.

  • I think I would have a panic attack, get over it, go on a nice vacation and then either start a company or look for another social media job.

  • It’s a great idea to plan ahead – anything can happen at any time and it’s so dangerous to not plan. I would be devastated to lose my job – particularly because I’m still new to the field and it would be a blow to the self confidence.

  • First thing I would do is get rid of cable and the $90 per month bill. Then I would look for other expenses to cut, such as electric or gas bill by being more economical with the way I use those things.

  • I would work on expanding my online business. Just as you mentioned, it already creates passive income, but if I did it full-time, I think that income would rise substantially. Maybe one day, I will choose to do that. But I’m prepared with a plan just in case it isn’t my choice!

  • Very good tips here. I think we should all have a job loss emergency plan, and if you work for yourself, have a loss of income plan. We can only get ahead by planning ahead.

  • My old supervisor was planning on quitting her job, then got fired (personality conflict with the station manager). She was shocked, and even though she had set the wheels in motion months ahead of time to leave that job anyway, she was still set back on her heels by the abruptness of her departure.

    For me, I think we’d be ok financially. We’ve learned over hte years how to pare down our budget, and always have a substantial emergency fund in our accounts. Our investment contributions might take a hit, but we wouldn’t lose our house or be unable to feed ourselves.

    • It’s always a shock when something like that happens. It’s like there’s some part of you that doesn’t believe it really could.

      And it sounds like you are in great shape financially!

  • I would add always add to your skill set which makes you employable, it’s an asset that is sometimes overlooked.

  • Unexpected job loss is tough enough emotionally. Having some financial plan will help the lower stress level. It’s never something we like to think about, though.

    This would fall inline with things like a will or power of attorney as far as being prepared too. Great advice.