I work in IT, and I recently learned that I’ll be losing my $88,000 a year job at the end of February. We’re debt-free, except for our home, and we have a full emergency fund in place. The problem is we just cash-flowed one daughter’s wedding, and we’ll be paying for another daughter’s college soon. I’ll receive a severance package of around $30,000 to $40,000, but we’re wondering if I should stop contributing to my 401(k) and stockpile cash until another job comes along.
You’ve done a great job handling your money, so going a couple of months without contributing to your 401(k) isn’t going to mean the difference between retiring with dignity and eating Alpo in your golden years.
In this case, I would temporarily stop funding the 401(k). You’re in a high-demand line of work, so I think you’ll probably land something soon and maybe even get a raise in the process. The main thing is to be intentional. Go ahead and start networking and lining up interviews now. Try to land something as soon as possible so that you can start at the end of February or the first of March. At that point, you could look at the severance package as a signing bonus.
There’s not much lost between now and then with what you’d actually gain from what you put into your 401(k). There would be going forward, for sure, but I think you’ll be able to make that up pretty quickly.
No new year’s debt next time?
We’ve always just assumed that we would use credit cards for Christmas, and accepted the fact that there would be a mountain of debt to pay off in January and February. Can you tell us how to make it through the Christmas season next year without accumulating debt?
Giving is a wonderful thing if your intentions—and your finances—are in the right place. But don’t let yourself get trapped in the shopping bonanza just because everyone else is doing it. It’s all too easy to try to justify overspending in the weeks ahead just because it’s a gift.
It’s pretty simple. Look at your budget, and see what you can afford to pay cash for during the holiday season. Once you and your spouse agree on this amount, make a list, check it twice and stick to it! Include the names and amounts you are going to spend on each person or charity. It’s just common sense, but it’s easy to find something in the mall you “just have to buy.” That’s where problems start.
Giving is not meant to be stressful on your finances. Give with the right intentions, and give with a financial plan in mind that does not include debt. Another thing to remember is Christmas always falls on December 25. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to realize it’s right around the corner. You could even get a real jump on things, and set a little bit aside each month toward Christmas starting right now!
Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 11 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations and digital outlets. Dave’s latest project, EveryDollar, provides a free online budget tool. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.
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