What to Do (and What Not to Do) When You’ve Been Furloughed

The biggest Don’t is “Don’t panic.” 

This is survivable. You’re going to be okay. It’s going to get rough and get worse before it gets better, but you can come out of this in better financial health than going in. Some federal workers are required to work without pay during the shutdown, and unions are getting ready to bring a suit against the federal government’s requirement that “essential personnel” come to work despite the government’s refusal to pay them. Some workers may even need government assistance to pay utility bills, buy food, and must now face dealing with creditors who only want to be paid, and can make life hell until they do. So this is Van Horn Law Group’s Big List of Advice on what to do and what not to do if you’ve been furloughed, or are being required to work without pay.

If this is your first shutdown, check here for your agency’s contingency plans and here for special instructions and conditions from the OMB. Remember that even if you are furloughed you are still a federal employee – rules and standards still apply – but there’s a clear-cut list of rules for you to follow and to help you during the shutdown

Guess Who Still Gets Paid?

Just a quick note – Congress and the President are still getting their paychecks. During the 2013 shutdown, the Senate tried to ram through a law that would suspend Congressional paychecks, but the House tanked that bill. But they want you to eat cake, lots of cake, and send these letters in case you can’t pay your bills. Good to know!

The Big List of Resources

What Not to Do

Don’t do any of the things on this list. Just don’t. They will bring you to harm down the road and get you into a permanent cycle of debt – and this is a temporary situation.

  • Don’t get a payday loan.
  • Don’t get a “consolidation” loan that will stick you with huge interest.
  • Don’t put everyday expenses on your credit cards.
  • Don’t take out a home equity loan or title loan.
  • Don’t panic.

Payday loans are high-interest short-term loans and while they can pay a bill in the short term, it costs you a lot in the long term as you cover the shortfall with loan after loan. Consolidating debts is a good idea, but only if the payment is reasonable. Having just one payment is a great idea – as long as it’s not more than the conglomerated payment was before the loan. For instance, if you’re shelling out $1,000 each month in credit card payments, don’t take out a loan that has you paying more.

What You Should Do

“Okay, what should I do?”

I’m glad you asked! The first thing you should do is slow down and walk through each decision. Panic lands you in trouble, and though it’s difficult not to panic when your livelihood is at stake, you have to keep a cool head.

  • Unplug. The news cycle will wind you up and drive you crazy as you try to do whatever you can to figure out when you might go back to work or get paid.
  • Sit down and look over your debt and decide whether or not you need to consolidate, renegotiate, or look at a personal bankruptcy. If you are just limping along as you service your debt with minimum payments, it might be time to think about a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  • Don’t vegetate. Being a couch potato might be appealing for a day or two, but you do need to get and stay in an active routine.
  • Try a gig. The gig economy is a real thing and while it has issues, it does put money in people’s pockets. Drive for Uber, Lyft, Postmates, or try out your talents on Taskrabbit.
  • Get ready to go back to work. When you get back there’s going to be an unholy backlog of stuff. You’re going to have to stay up to speed on new items hitting your inbox while clearing out the pre-furlough items.
  • Don’t forget to update your resume and maybe get ready to jump to a new position.

If You Need Help

At Van Horn Law Group, we know debt. We understand the havoc it can bring to your life. This is why, in times of financial trouble, you need the best possible advice. Our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach offices are open seven days a week, to make it easy for you to see us and your first consultation with an experienced attorney is free. Get in touch with us, read through our blog, and we’ll get you through this!

About Chad Van Horn

Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn

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What to Do (and What Not to Do) When You've Been Furloughed
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Remember that even if you are furloughed you are still a federal employee - rules and standards still apply - but there's a clear-cut list of rules for you to follow and to help you during the shutdown. 
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Van Horn Law Group
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Chad Van Horn

Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn

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