The effect of COVID-19 on the job market has been — and continues to be — significant. Yet while previous economic downturns have tended to hit male-dominated sectors such as manufacturing and construction, the pandemic has been especially disruptive to industries like retail and hospitality that traditionally employ large numbers of women. Many female workers have also had to consider quitting work to look after children and/or other family members while some schools and day care facilities are closed.*
The result is an outsized impact on the female side of the labor force. But if you’re a woman who’s either lost your job or been forced to leave it as a result of COVID-19, the key is not to panic. There are some steps you can take right now to help navigate the uncertainty — financially and emotionally.
Develop a budget
Whenever you experience a reduction in income, a sensible first step is to draw up a budget. Start by separating your essential living costs, such as a mortgage, groceries or utilities from your discretionary ones, like entertainment and travel. Then determine where you can temporarily trim your spending without it having a major an effect on you or your family’s lifestyle. Be sure to factor in any additional sources of income too, such as your spouse/partner’s paycheck or a rental property. Anything left over each month can then be put into savings, either to boost your emergency fund or to keep building a nest egg for retirement.
Review your childcare
If you intend to look for a new job immediately, you may find that many opportunities currently offer lower-hour contracts or reduced pay packages. Therefore, it may be wise to consider whether returning to work right away makes financial sense. For example, will you be able to cover any necessary childcare expenses right now or would it be more cost-effective for you to take over daytime or after-school caring responsibilities for your children until things improve? If you’d prefer to keep your kids’ normal routine or leave yourself free to focus on searching for a new job, another option is to ask a grandparent or extended family member to help out for a short while to reduce monthly childcare expenses.
Talk to your employer
If you’re considering quitting your job to accommodate other responsibilities during the pandemic, it’s a good idea to first talk to your employer about any “creative” ways that may avoid you having to leave the workforce entirely. Would flexible hours or a remote working arrangement be possible, even just for a few months? If you’ve been there a long time, could you be eligible for a sabbatical or period of unpaid leave before returning in the future? Asking these questions may just uncover a solution that works for both parties.
Consider alternative opportunities
If you enjoy your job and/or want to avoid feeling like your career is stalling during your time away from work, you might want to consider opportunities outside of a full-time job. Is there a business idea you’ve been mulling over for a while and can now explore more seriously as an option for the future? Could you research temporary or part-time contracts in your chosen field? Is there an online course you’ve been meaning to take to brush up your skills or boost your resume? If time allows, finding ways to make your period of unemployment feel productive can provide a welcome emotional boost in the short term and perhaps even a financial one in the long term.
Losing or leaving a job can be daunting in normal times, let alone amid the challenges of today. So, if you do find yourself laid-off, furloughed or forced to quit work to take on other responsibilities, it’s a good idea to speak to a financial professional. They can help you consider ways to limit the disruption to your day-to-day lifestyle and longer-term financial plans while also providing useful guidance on how to prepare yourself for any similar economic challenges in the future. After all, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
This informational and educational content does not offer or constitute, and should not be relied upon as, financial, tax or legal advice. Your unique needs, goals and circumstances require and deserve the individualized attention of your own financial, tax, legal and other professionals. Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice or services.