Federal Employees: How To Handle A Furlough

The recent news headlines are filled with information on the government’s impending sequestration. Without an approved budget from Congress, there will be forced cuts to many governmentally-funded programs. Because of these cuts, thousands of federal employees may be facing furloughs that could last for up to a year. In the unfortunate event that you will be impacted by a furlough, take these steps now to prepare accordingly: 1. Figure out your budget and determine essential and non-essential items. In some cases, federal employees have already received notification that sequestration will result in a four-day work week. A 20 percent decrease in pay could mean that you’ll need to really watch your spending on those non-essential items and instead focus on essential housing, food, and transportation costs. Your budget doesn’t need to be an accountant-worthy document, but you should analyze your adjusted take home pay with the decrease and your set monthly expenses. Don’t forget to include expenses that may only occur one or two times a year, like insurance. 2. Identify opportunities for making up the shortfall caused by the furlough. After you have completed your budget analysis, you may realize that you need to find some additional work to make up the difference and still live comfortably. Lots of full-time professionals also work in part-time positions in the evenings and on weekends. With your new schedule, you’ll have at least one full work day that you could devote to a second job. Perhaps your skills allow you to pursue some freelance or consulting work on a temporary basis. Start networking with your colleagues who work in the private sector and see if such an opportunity exists. You may also consider taking your skills online by using sites like Elance or oDesk. 3. If your finances can sustain the decrease in income, consider how you will use your extra time. Pursue continuing education opportunities on your own or through formalized programs at your local community college. Often times, these courses are relatively inexpensive and they will allow you to keep your skills fresh during your down time. There may also be online training courses through professional associations or an online provider like Coursera. 4. Pursue your passion. If continuing education isn’t your cup of tea, find out if there are volunteer opportunities that align with your interests, hobbies, and so on. Most non-profit organizations are in need of volunteers, so reach out to a group that shares your values. You may be surprised by how willing they are to get you involved in projects. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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