Click to toggle navigation menu.
Left Pattern Right Pattern
Investing Retirement

How to Save for Retirement When You Fear Layoffs

  • 2-min read
A person interviewing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The interviewer says, "Retirement," and Pelosi responds, "What's that?"
Forbes / Giphy

It’s a great time to hunker down on saving for retirement: Though stocks dead cat bounced (or maybe they didn’t?) this week, the S&P 500 still ended the week down -17.4% YTD. Put another way, you’re buying the same assets at a 17.4% lower price than you did in January.

But if you’re worried about layoffs, understandably you want to bolster your cash pile and slow down on retirement contributions. But if you do, you’re missing out on a DISCOUNT! What’s an anxious corporate helot to do?

Start living on less

Slow down on the Jimmy Choos and nights at Eleven Madison Park. This should be an involuntary step for anyone in fear of losing their job, but definitely examine your spending and see where you can trim your spending (here are some ideas). Of course, this won’t be possible for people who are already living paycheck to paycheck.

Make sure you’ve topped up your emergency fund

We’ve all dipped into our emergency fund to spend a week at the Nobu hotel in Ibiza … right? If you dipped when you should’ve nopped, start putting your extra savings into a savings account—not a brokerage account—that will cover up to six months of essential, not-going-anywhere-near-Madison-Avenue spending. And if six months doesn’t feel like enough, I won’t judge you for holding more; it’s your money, not mine.

Keep maximizing your employer’s 401(k) match

Don’t leave any potential compensation on the table. This is the corporate equivalent of eating your vegetables.

Say your employer will contribute 4% of your salary to your 401(k) if you contribute 6%. Focus on contributing at least 6%, even if this is the only retirement saving you do for a few months. 

However, make sure your employer’s match vests, meaning that you can take it with you if security comes to your office holding a cardboard box tomorrow.

Contribute to a Roth IRA

With most IRAs and 401(k) plans, you’ll face penalties if you make withdrawals before you turn 59 ½. But Roth IRAs are more flexible than most, providing a few ways to get money out penalty-free whenever you need it.

With Roth IRAs, you can withdraw any of your contributions penalty-free. And if you’ve had the account for at least five years, you can also withdraw your earnings penalty-free (income taxes still apply on withdrawn earnings unless you’re 59 ½+). 

So if you’ve had a Roth IRA for more than five years, you can treat it as a last-resort emergency fund. But if your Roth IRA is less than five years old, there are still ways to avoid penalties on withdrawn earnings. Here’s a whole list, but I’ll highlight the most pertinent one: to cover health insurance premiums when you’re unemployed. 

Keep reading about financially preparing for an economic downturn here.