With the economy continuing to add jobs—178,000 in November—and the unemployment rate falling to 4.6 percent, a lot of people are looking for a change, whether just a new employer or a new career altogether.
Employment growth over the year thus far, in fact, has averaged 180,000 per month, with employment gains in November boosting professional and business services and in health care.
With numbers like those, it’s no surprise that a lot of people are looking around to see what else might be available, instead of the jobs they currently hold.
And if the current trend holds true to form, 2017 could be the year of the jobhopper.
A CareerBuilder survey at the end of 2015 found that 21 percent of employees were determined to leave their current employers, and that was an increase of 5 percent over the number resolved to switch jobs at the end of 2014.
Younger workers were even more determined, with 30 percent of employees aged 18–34 expecting to have a new job by the end of 2016, up from 23 percent in 2015. And to make sure they follow through, 34 percent of employees overall are regularly searching for job opportunities, even though they’re currently employed—and that’s up 4 percent from 2015.
With so many people on the hunt for new (and presumably better) employment, it would be a good time to consider adding another resolution to the list for 2017: improving their financial situation.
And starting a new job could be an ideal way to do just that, especially for younger workers—many of whom are woefully unprepared for retirement.
In fact, while a third of Americans admit to zero retirement savings and another 33 percent have saved less than $50,000 (52 percent of GenXers have less than $10,000, while 42 percent of millennials haven’t even gotten started), a HealthView study has estimated that they’ll need $200,000 for health care expenses alone—and women will need 20 percent more than men. Good luck with that.
But for those who are starting a new job, this could be their chance to straighten out their finances so that when the time comes, they actually will have good luck with that. Next Avenue came up with six ways to work on your financial situation when you start a new job that can help you get things under control and improve your savings and debt status, as well as your retirement savings situation.
Here are those six actions you can take to get you out of the red and into the green in all your accounts, including retirement:
6. Create an updated financial road map.
Your new job may come with a higher salary, or be in addition to whatever job you already held or finally end the dry spell of unemployment.
Whichever one it is, you need to reevaluate your financial situation and figure out what needs to be done.
For instance, if you were unemployed or in a job with a salary too low to meet your expenses, you may have some repair work to do on your credit rating or some catch-up to do to make your accounts current. Planning a budget that will help you to do either or both is a good start.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in a higher pay bracket with no financial woes prior to the job change, now’s the time to ratchet up your savings, especially for an emergency fund and retirement accounts. Shoot high; try to sock away at least 15 percent of your income.
5. Transition your old retirement plan.
It can be tough to keep track of multiple retirement accounts from multiple past employers, so when you leave the old job behind, don’t leave your retirement money with it.
Rolling over your 401(k) either to your new employer’s plan or to an IRA will make it easier for you to keep track of the level of your savings, and may even offer you better investment options.
Also remember to check on contribution limits, and do your best to hit the maximum.
But you have to check on your eligibility; you might have to be with the new boss for a specific period of time, such as six months or a year, before you can participate.
If that’s the case, you should set up an IRA and start putting money into that. A missed opportunity for contributions will cost you in the long run—leaving you with less money than you should have had on retirement.
4. Sign up for benefits.
Okay, we know it’s intimidating to have to wade through all the information on benefits and figure out which health care options offer you the best coverage—but it’s worth it.
To make sure you make the right choices, talk to a human resources representative to get more detail, and then make sure you compare all the available plans with your own and your family’s needs in mind.
While you’re there, ask whether life and disability insurance coverage is available through your employer—then review any current coverage you may have to see whether it might be better to sign up through the office.
3. Establish a health savings account if it’s offered.
In addition to giving you a way to pay for high deductibles that may be part of your health insurance, an HSA offers additional advantages that you should seize upon as soon as you can.
Not only does money in an HSA go into the account before it’s taxed, it grows tax deferred and when withdrawn to pay unreimbursed health care expenses, such as deductibles, copays, prescriptions and eyeglasses, it’s also tax free—giving such accounts the nickname of triple-tax-free. It would be foolish not to take advantage of it, when you can contribute up to $3,350 ($6,750 for families) to cover qualified medical expenses.
And the best thing? It can even help you with retirement. If you can let the money stay in the account that long (and fully fund the account), you can use the money to pay for qualified medical expenses in retirement, thus stretching your retirement savings further.
2. Repair damaged credit.
If the bills piled up during a period of unemployment or low salary, once you’ve got a budget planned out to get current, you need to fix your credit rating.
Take advantage of the annual credit report you can get for free from annualcreditreport.com, and make sure you get one from each credit bureau: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
Once you have all three, go through all the details on each one and dispute any inaccuracies quickly. They might have made your credit score worse than it should be. Also review other credit issues, including late or delinquent payments, and get going on correcting them as well.
1. Pay down your debt.
Even if you managed to stay current during a period of unemployment or low salary, you may have high debt levels from trying to keep everyone paid.
Now is the time to start paying off that debt, especially by going through your expenses to see what you can cut out—at least until you’re debt free.
Money freed up from canceled subscriptions, eliminated Starbucks runs and any other savings should be allocated to any credit cards over and above the minimum payment.
If your budget allows it, also earmark part of your new salary for those payments. And if you’re trying to pay off multiple credit cards, you could start on the one with the highest interest rate, which will bring you the biggest savings—or, conversely, on the one with the lowest balance, for a boost in morale at paying it off quickly.
Once one bill is paid off, attack the next one, adding the money you used to send to the first one to whatever you were already paying—and so on, till you’re out of debt.