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Feature Articles: Financial Information & Tips           

Just lost your job? Don't panic!

Brenda Procter, M.S., state specialist & instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension; Nancy Flood, M.S., former finance specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Remember that people’s income drops for all kinds of reasons. It may be job loss, but it could also be a recession, death, divorce or something else. Whatever the reason, don’t blame yourself. That wastes the energy you need to do something about it.

Immediately file for unemployment benefits by telephone or on the Internet. To file by phone, call 1-800-320-2519. On the Internet, go to

If you are denied benefits and you disagree, follow the directions on the determination form you get back. Appeal in writing and include your name, Social Security number, a copy of the determination form and a detailed explanation of why you disagree.

Talk to your family. You all feel frustrated and need to express your feelings. Put all issues out on the table and talk, talk, talk. Include everyone in the decisions. Talk about what is really important and get the whole family working together to meet the challenge. Your family can come out stronger because of this.

Be realistic about your financial situation. Take stock of family resources and tap into any government or community resources you can find. Make a spending plan with your family and use it.

Don’t run from creditors and overdue bills. Decide which bills are the most important and pay them first. Communicate with creditors and try to work out a reduced payment plan. If that is not possible, pay at least something on your bills. Unless you have a life-and-death situation, stop using your credit cards immediately. If you need help with bills, call 1-800-388-2227 to find your nearest Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Ask about any company benefit plans. Check the status of pensions, annuities, profit sharing plans or stock option plans.

If you need help to tide you over right now, contact the Career Center at 1-800-392-2949 for resources and advice or contact your local Division of Family Services (DFS) office to see if you qualify for cash assistance, food stamps, medical benefits or other services for you or your children. To find your local DFS office, look in the phone book or call toll-free at 1-800-392-1261. The taxes you pay fund these services so use them if you need to.

Remember that money is not your only resource. You and your family have talents, skills, time and energy that can be put to work. Think about substituting less costly foods and goods for costly ones. Your community might have free things you can do instead of paying for movies or other costly activities.

Conserve by avoiding waste, taking care of yourself and keeping things in good repair. Get the most out of each car trip, oven use, washing machine load and dollar spent.

Accept the stress you feel as human and natural. When the stress mounts, take steps to reduce it. You might take a brisk walk every day, escape for a few minutes with a favorite hobby or activity, spend more time with people who make you feel good and find something to laugh about. It helps to get your mind off things now and then.

Start an aggressive job search. You can find books at the public library on selling yourself and writing a resume. Call the Missouri Career Center toll-free at 1-800-392-2949 for resources and advice.

No matter what, try to focus on the positive. The following resources and information can help you on the way as you take back control of the situation.


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Special acknowledgement to Jean Ward, Workforce Development/Career Options Program Project Director.




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Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009