By SHELLY A. WIEMANN
A few generations ago, it was not uncommon for workers to stick with a single job for their whole careers. But for many of us today, frequent job changes are a fact of life: The average employee tenure is just over four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, assuming you’re going to switch jobs a few times, you’ll want to be prepared. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to smooth these transitions and help your financial situation:
Build an emergency fund. Some of your job changes may be involuntary, so you’ll want to have a cash cushion handy – just in case. One smart move would be to build an emergency fund, containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account.
Consider your options for your former employer’s 401(k) plan. If you had a 401(k) plan with your former employer, you have three main options: You could leave your money in the plan, if the employer allows it; you could move the money into your new employer’s plan, if permitted; or you could roll the funds over to an IRA. You’ll want to weigh the “pros” and “cons” of these choices carefully before making a decision.
Choose investments from your new retirement plan. If your new employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, you’ll need to choose the investments within the plan that are most appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Contribute as much as you can afford to the plan, and consider increasing your contributions every time your salary goes up.
Make sure you’ve got health insurance. The health insurance offered by your new employer may not begin the minute you start your job. Given the high costs of medical care, you’ll need to make sure you are protected until your coverage kicks in. So, for that interim period, you may need to consider the federal health insurance marketplace, COBRA continuation coverage or private medical insurance. You might also be eligible to be covered under your spouse’s health insurance. And you may want to learn what your options are for health savings accounts (HSAs), if available.
Review your new benefits package – and take steps to fill gaps. Your new benefits package may include life and disability insurance, but these group policies may not be enough to fully protect you and your family. A financial professional can help you quantify your protection and insurance needs and offer guidance on how much coverage you may require.
Understand your income tax considerations. Getting a new job may involve income tax implications, such as changes in your tax bracket, severance pay, unused vacation and unemployment compensation. And if you are thinking of exercising stock options, be aware that this, too, can be a taxable event. Finally, if you have to move to take a new job, you may incur some relocation and job hunting expenses that could be deductible. You will need to discuss all these issues with your tax professional.
Starting a new job can be exciting – and challenging. But you may be able to make your life easier by putting the above suggestions to work.