Tag Archives: Employment

Laid Off? Let’s Move Forward Together…

With everything changing, one of the most common questions we get is – what happens now that I’m laid off?

Luckily, we have terrific readers all over the country who are sharing their stories – how they are navigating the new world order, and advice they find helpful.

Here’s one reader’s advice on how to keep yourself moving forward:

Hi WhatHappensNow –

I have learned a few things that someone else in my situation might find helpful.

When friends, former colleagues and family reach out, don’t avoid them. They are the strongest support system you’ve got. They want the best for you and aren’t judging you. I had to make a conscious effort to accept their help.

  • Remember that this support group might actually be your link to a new job. They know you best and will look for opportunities that you are most closely suited to. Look into linkedin.com and you might be surprised at how helpful this network can be. It is highly recommended by experts in the recruiting world.
  • Another way to network is to join a group of people who share your interests. It is also a great way to have fun. Check out www.meetup.com for lists of groups near you who gather to do everything from play cards to rock-climb. Registration is free and easy. You simply choose areas of interest, enter your zip code and the number of miles you are willing to travel. You will probably find a surprising number of groups who share your interests and who would welcome you as a new member. The only cost would occur if you choose a group that charges a fee. (See the site’s policy statement for complete information.)
  • Form letters/emails aren’t personal rejections (this is a tough one!). These companies don’t know what they are missing when they don’t interview me! It helps to view them that way instead of imagining the worst.
  • Exercise, eat well and laugh. Any one of these three things could go by the wayside and life is just too short to let that happen.
  • Don’t pay attention to economic news. Focus on the pieces that include information showing that there are still opportunities out there.
  • On a practical note, make a list of your current monthly expenses. Decide which items you can either do without or reduce immediately. If you have credit cards, reach the monthly statements carefully. Many of those companies have recently begun shortening the grace period from 30 to 25 or 21 days. Read every piece of correspondence from your credit card companies. If they have raised your interest rate, call them. They would rather reduce the rate than lose a customer. If at all possible, find a card with a special offer at 0% interest. We found a card that didn’t charge a balance transfer fee from our current card, plus the 0% interest rate applies for 15 months. Instead of credit cards, carry a specified amount of cash for the month, preferably in larger bills. We are all less likely to spend cash and are even more cautious about breaking a $50 bill.
  • At this point, make a conscious effort to give thanks for everything you have. Health, friends, family, lots of great experience on your resume and the knowledge you aren’t alone.

Thank you Reader!! (She wanted to stay anonymous)

****

Also, if you’re interested, here are two other articles from readers and experts on coping with lay-offs

- Just Laid Off – First Steps

- Seven Steps to Surviving a Lay-Off in a Bad Economy

If you have advice – email us – susan (at) WhatHappensNow.com

New Mortgage Scams Surface

The TODAY Show aired another set of warnings about mortgage scams on May 27, 2009. The expert reports there are currently millions of Americans on the brink of foreclosure and some illegitimate “Foreclosure Consultants” are taking advantage of their dire situations.

  • WHN Tip: Contact your lender directly before you get behind in your mortgage payments. Ask for options to renegotiate the terms of your loan.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran outlined the newest scam along with several that have been wreaking havoc with desperate homeowners for months.

The latest scam involves President Obama’s Rescue Plan designed to help seven to nine million families avoid foreclosure. People are paying thousands of dollars to illegitimate counselors who promise to research facts about qualification and the application process. Of course, they don’t conduct the research and, instead, keep the money.

The information you need is free and can be accessed in two simple ways. First, the Internet site makinghomeaffordable.gov provides everything you need to know. Second, a call to 888-995-HOPE delivers the same assistance.

Make sure you are visiting a legitimate website. The scam artists often create websites with official-sounding addresses that may end with “.gov”. Don’t assume a site with this type of name is legitimate. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a site, conduct a Google search with the name and the word “scam” or just search “mortgage scams”. Go to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission sites as well.

One of the most dangerous scams is called “Bait and Switch”. An illegitimate counselor hands the prospect a document to sign. Instead of a mortgage application, the document is actually a transfer of title. Once signed, the scam artist owns your home and you are evicted.

A “Rent-to-Buy” scheme is equally dangerous. The representative offers to buy your home at a very low price and promises to sell it back when you get on your feet. In the meantime, they propose you pay rent. Soon, the rent soars well beyond your means, they own the home and you are evicted.

The “Middleman” scam preys upon your vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. Besides requiring you to pay thousands upfront, you are required to supply confidential information such as your social security numbers, bank account numbers and/or driver’s license details. (WHN NOTE: Never release your confidential information until you are certain the company is legitimate and it will not be used for identity theft.) The illegitimate counselor then tells you to “leave it to me” and collects your mortgage payments with a promise to pay the bank while they renegotiate your loan for you. Of course, they take your money and your confidential information and disappear. They had no intention of ever speaking with your bank.

In the “Bankruptcy” scheme, the scammer promises to work with the lender on your behalf. Instead, they file bankruptcy on your behalf and you lose both your home and your credit rating.

According to Barbara Corcoran, there are legitimate mortgage consultants in the country. WHN recommends that you start by working directly with your lender or the government. Again, the information is free and readily available. You can make a few calls or visit the legitimate websites to get the ball rolling without spending a dime.

There are websites to help identify scams and provide advice about how to safely deal with a mortgage renegotiation or refinance. One to visit is scambusters.

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Beauty on a Budget and Training for a Great New Career: Think Beauty Schools!

WHN heard from a reader who is investigating options for a career change. In the process, she discovered a great way to work beauty services back into the family budget. A beauty school visit proved to be a great investment of her time. Here is her story.

Hello WHN.

Since the economy caused my former employer to lay off almost 20% of its staff at the corporate headquarters, I have been among the growing ranks of the unemployed. While the competition for a shrinking number of openings is increasing, I started researching ways to train for a new career.

Although I have a bachelor’s degree, the cost of returning to college to finish my master’s degree eliminated that option. My husband and I have two sons well on their way to needing our help with college tuition. Anticipating those expenses led me to look for a career with a lot of growth possibilities that doesn’t require such large investments of time and money.

A career in beauty fits all of my criteria, including the desire to do something creative in an environment where every day brings new challenges. I visited a school as a client to see what the students had to say about their education and what a typical day looks like.

I was totally impressed and excited. Not only did I get a fantastic manicure at a great price, the students said they loved their training and the time was flying. No wonder. It was obvious they were having fun every day doing a wide variety of services on their way to becoming licensed.

As a client, I was treated with complete professionalism for a price that I could afford. Finally, I don’t have to put off having my hair and nails done! Manicures at the school I chose, Regency Beauty Institute, start at $11 (plus tip, of course). In addition, I received an OPI nail color of my choice. That alone has a retail value of $8.50. A supervisor checked with the student before the service and was always nearby. After the manicure, she was back to make sure I was 100% satisfied. That was easy. It couldn’t have been better. The hand and arm massage was so relaxing that I felt almost guilty to be paying so little and getting so much!

Regency has the best loyalty/referral program I have ever joined. No paperwork and lots of benefits make this the perfect perk for everyone. I’ve already posted my recommendation on Facebook and now my friends are spreading the word, too. I’m going back next week for a pedicure (starts at $15 and includes the complimentary OPI) and another manicure. (The client next to me was having a pedicure and it looked like a slice of heaven.) I had given up facials, but they are back on my to-do list.

There are beauty schools in virtually every city. I highly recommend that you check one out. I’ve found that the time it takes to complete the requirements varies by state and the services/prices vary by school. A website with answers to all of my questions is hosted by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. You’ll find schools in your area and links to all of the AACS member websites in minutes. (Click on Careers in Beauty.)

I think we all feel more confident facing the economy with a contemporary hairstyle and color. Remember to tell the men in your life, too!

Thanks for sharing my story. An encouraged WHN reader.

  • WHN TIP: AACS Executive Director Jim Cox says, “Regency, Empire Beauty SchoolsMarinello Schools of Beauty and International Academy of Hair Design each have multiple locations across several states. The hours required for licensing range from 1,000 in New York and Massachusetts, for example, to over 2,000 in Oregon, Utah and Iowa. The requirements for every state are listed on our site in the Student Resources section.” Mr. Cox also commented on the wide range of tuition across the country. “The cost you can expect could be anywhere from about $8,000 to $18,000 depending on programs offered, location, etc.” As our reader mentioned, the services offered and price lists also vary. Check the school’s website or call the location near you for specifics.

For more information or to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

To Help Build Business, More Companies are Offering Freebies.

This advice came to WHN from a reader who watched the TODAY Show on April 28th. If you have never considered searching for free items offered by retailers via the Internet, this might be a great time to check out TODAY’s recommended websites.

Dear WhatHappensNow,

After being laid off, I admit my family became more creative about our monthly budget. Clipping store coupons, enjoying the free samples at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club and buying non-perishables in bulk gave us some fast and easy ways to save.

I hadn’t considered using the Internet to look for more ways to conserve until today. When you take a few minutes to search, the free items offered on various sites are pretty enticing.

The TODAY segment provided some precautions that I would like to share. First, create a separate email account (one that is free) devoted to communicating with freebie sites. That way, if you begin to receive a lot of spam, you can simply close the account. When filling out a form to receive free items, do not include a phone or credit card number. In fact, the only personal information you share will be a valid mailing address. If an item is offered for nothing, but there are shipping/handling charges, don’t fall for an offer that requires an unreasonable fee. This is a red flag for a scam, according to TODAY’s expert.

I visited Hey, It’s Free, recommended on TODAY, and found a treasure chest of freebies. My favorite part of this website is the list of Cool Sites on the homepage. These links give you countless additional options. Although I haven’t tried ordering free samples yet, I plan to check it out.

Two other sites featured on TODAY are Spoofee and My Savings. If you can’t find something that your family can use on one of these sites, I would be surprised. Just remember that it may take awhile for your free items to arrive. But, you can’t beat the price.

Signed, a WHN fan.

Thanks for the smart savings advice! If you would like to share your experiences about getting goods for free, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

What Happens to Child Support When an Ex is Laid Off?

There are hundreds of thousands of newly-unemployed people in the U.S. We asked family law attorneys in several states for their advice, both for the ex who pays and the ex who receives child support.

Many of the attorneys recommended that the unemployed person contact the attorney involved in establishing child support immediately. (Note: The information WHN gathered is not to be used in lieu of legal advice. This information is not meant to replace legal advice, and it may not represent the laws in your state. This is only written to give you ideas about questions to ask your attorney and things you might expect to encounter during the process. Contact a trusted legal professional for any legal needs you may have.)

Take Action

  • WHN TIP: MOVE FAST. Child support issues may not move quickly through the courts – HOWEVER – you must take action quickly. Experts say that in Minnesota alone child support modification requests rose from 10,000 in 2007 to over 14,000 in 2008. Although courts are obligated to make support systems fair for all parties, the judges in Minneapolis’ Hennepin County are now faced with 1,000 cases per judge each year. This overload is one more sign of how the new economy affects our citizens.

From the office of Fred Adams (fred@fsalaw.net) in Dallas, TX comes an explanation about the urgency of taking action. “If the payor loses his job, file a motion to modify the child support immediately so that arrearages do not begin or continue to accrue,” he says. “Once an arrearage has accrued, the courts in Texas have no ability to reduce that amount.” Bottom line? “Be proactive,” he continues. “Child support can always be raised once he regains employment status.”

“If you are the recipient of child support and your ex loses their job, consider agreeing to a reduction on a temporary basis (after the court grants a Temporary Order) so that it will be easier to restore the child support to its original level once your ex becomes employed again,” Mr Adams advises. “Remember that informal agreements are not binding on the court. The agreement needs to be included in an Order entered with the court.”

There may be options available on a free or sliding-scale basis if fees will create a burden. “If a person becomes unemployed and can’t pay support, they should contact the court where the child support order was filed and see if these programs exist,” Sherrie Bennett (sbennett@gfj.com) of Seattle, WA recommends. “If there are free or sliding-scale self-help programs, often volunteers can walk an individual through the process and help fill out the forms to request a modification in child support.”

She also advises checking with the local bar association for the possibility of free assistance. “The most important thing for a person who cannot afford child support is to get into court right away rather than letting back support stack up. It is very difficult to dig out of a backlog later,” Ms. Bennett says.

If you are the recipient of child support and your ex becomes unemployed, there are steps to take. “Pursue the claim in Family court and make your ex prove they are unemployed and can’t find other work,” explains Douglas M. Colbert (DMC1NYLAWYER@AOL.COM) of New York city. “The burden of proof is your ex’s responsibility.”

In the meantime, Mr. Colbert recommends filing for welfare or any other government benefits you and your child(ren) are eligible for.

If you are in the same city as your ex, there are creative ways the unemployed spouse can help ease the stress of the financial situation until a new job is found. “You can use your time to help your ex with the child(ren)’s expenses while you look for work,” Carol Bailey (CBailey@integrativefamilylaw.com) in Seattle says. “Take on more child care responsibilities such as replacing a day care provider, driving the child(ren) to and from school and after-school activities. You can also volunteer for school, athletic and recreational activities so the other parent can work.”

Ms. Bailey also suggests trying to barter for goods and attempting to earn money doing things you’ve never been paid for before. Exchange skills for money, store credit or goods. Consider providing carpentry, painting, car washing, cleaning, editing, babysitting, elder care, bookkeeping, shopping, gardening and other services in exchange for necessities.

Of course, the most amicable way to deal with a situation such as job loss is to discuss it with your ex first.

Keith Allen (attny36@yahoo.com) in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, says, “Find out if your ex is willing to work with you to make an agreement either to suspend or modify support while you are unemployed. This reduces possible animosity, legal fees and/or lost wages. Modification levels are defined by state guidelines and you can find a ‘dissomaster’ child support calculator online. The guidelines are based upon either unemployment benefits or, if no benefits exist, whatever amounts the two parents can agree to.”

With that information in hand, the parents can draft a stipulation themselves, go to the Family court self-help clinic at the courthouse or pay a paralegal or attorney to draft the stipulation. To be finalized, the stipulation must be submitted to the court for signature, according to Mr. Allen.

He goes on to explain that, if the recipient parent believes that their ex is intentionally not working or not seeking re-employment, they can apply for County support which is based upon the recipient’s income level. The County will most likely seek reimbursement from the ex for any monies paid according to their actual income or ability to earn. The County will likely request and obtain a “seek work” order against the ex-spouse. The out of work parent should retain proof of all job applications to show the judge the efforts they are making to become re-employed.

If both parents lose their jobs, it is still mandatory to file any revised agreements with the court.

Remember to act immediately when there is a “change in circumstances” such as a job loss by either or both parents. Avoiding the issue will make resolution much more difficult.

If something occurs that affects your ability to pay or the amount you need to receive from your ex, speak with the attorney who assisted you with the original child support Order. If that isn’t possible, search for an attorney in your area at www.martindale.com. This site lists law firms including individual attorneys, their specialties and qualifications. Many offer free initial consultations.

Another resource is located at www.abanet.org, the American Bar Association site.

  • WHN TIP: According to some national news reports, analysts predict that job losses will continue throughout 2009. Plan now in the event this happens to you or your ex. The children’s health and well-being are of utmost importance and changes in child support could pose a host of challenges for everyone involved.
  • WHN TIP: Whether you are employed or not, there is a great website for people who are interested in joining a group where the members share your interests. Not only will you have a chance to network and make new friends, you can get some valuable input from people who might share some of your experiences. The website registration is easy and free. You will be amazed by the number of groups meeting to play cards, learn meditation, lose weight, exercise and the list goes on and on. Try it out at www.meetup.com. Simply enter your zip code and your area(s) of interest for a sample of what is available. You can narrow it down by the number of miles you are willing to travel as well. The only cost would occur if the group you choose charges a fee. (During registration, click on the website’s policy statement to learn more.)

For information or to share your experiences, email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Job Scams Continue to Thrive.

Hello – I have written to WHN about job scams, but it’s time for an update.

The major news organizations are reporting that the number and sophistication of job scams continues to increase. Too many of us are becoming more desperate to find work and the scammers are taking advantage of the situation.

Their tactics usually involve posing as a legitimate company, sometimes as large as Bank of America or US Bank. They often use actual corporate logos on websites and in emails.

The scams have several things in common. One of the major red flags is requiring you to spend money once you are “hired”. You may even have to purchase software and specific paper to do your “job”. Some may include wiring cash through Western Union (which is not even involved in the scam!). Most scams are hidden under a work-from-home or start-your-own-business banner. Many promise huge returns on your investment.

Another warning sign is their requirement that you provide personal information such as your social security number, driver’s license number, bank-account details, date of birth, etc.

  • WHN TIP: Don’t provide personal information in response to an emailed job “offer” or through a job-related website. Legitimate offers don’t ask for this data until you have been interviewed, hired and are ready to start work.

If an offer looks too good to be true, it usually is. Check the potential employer out thoroughly. Make sure the website you may have been referred to is the company’s official site (and be careful – because sometimes these aren’t real either!). Google the company’s name along with the word “scam”. Check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org and the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

  • WHN TIP: Never pay money to start a job. The only reasons to spend money on employment might be to start your own business or to purchase a legitimate franchise (that you have thoroughly researched).

News broadcasts are reporting that Americans are falling for scams – and there are even music videos being done in Nigeria (one of the hotbeds of scams) which boast about how much money they are getting from the “dumb Americans”.

Whether the inquiry or offer comes via telephone, email or mail, remember to do your homework. People have lost thousands to these scammers and most of us cannot afford to take a risk. These are cases where the saying “you have to spend money to make money” does not apply.

- Thanks for the update WHN Reader!

  • WHN TIP: Being out of work can sometimes cause you to feel isolated. There is a great website available to people who would like to network and have fun at the same time. The site lists groups of all interests. If you like to play cards, exercise, kayak, take photos, rock-climb, etc., you will probably find a group to join at www.meetup.com. Simply enter your zip code and interest on the home page to see a list of groups near you. Registration is free and easy. (See the site’s policy statement for more information.) A cost would only be incurred if you choose a group that charges a fee for membership. The site allows you to indicate the number of miles you are willing to travel from your zip code. Check it out!

If you have an experience you would like to share, email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Job Scams on the Rise

Here are some insights and smart tips from a reader who is navigating life after being laid off – and wanted to share what s/he is seeing.

With the increasing unemployment rate comes the proliferation of new scams.

Nearly every day, I receive emails from people in various countries around the world with similarly strange “offers”.

For example – after posting my resume online at the usual outlets, one gentleman claimed to be representing a ‘client’ who wanted information about an industry I am very familiar with. He asked if I could make a determination about hedge funds. First – I don’t analyze hedge funds and second, it was difficult to understand the man on the phone who claimed he was calling from India. I told him that I would like to do some research and call him back. He informed me that I couldn’t call him back (he was “in India”), but I could call his colleague in South America.

Right….

My concern is that there are people who are in a state of desperation and they will pursue opportunities that aren’t real or safe.

The Better Business Bureau is warning that bogus work-at-home scams are much more prevalent now. Some of the schemes involve innocent people in criminal activities without their knowledge.

At the same time, own-your-own-business scams are spreading. Disguised under other titles, many of them are really pyramid schemes, chain letters and multi-level marketing. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission warn that if you earn commissions primarily by recruiting others and not by selling goods or services, the enterprise is probably illegal. In 2007, the FTC reported nearly 3,100 complaints about this type of scam and they predict the number will be higher for 2008.

From the experts, words of caution:

  • Never, for any reason, give your social security number, date of birth or bank-account number unless you know for certain that they are going to be used for something legitimate such as applying for a mortgage. These pieces of information won’t come into play in a job search until you are hired at a legitimate company and are completing the required new-hire paperwork.
  • Do not give any personal information that could be used for identity theft or to link you to criminal activity without your knowledge. Just because a website exists under a company’s name, don’t automatically assume that everything about them is legitimate. There are hundreds of “dummy” sites created specifically to commit fraud and theft.
  • Never give your credit card number without doing your homework. The vast majority of legitimate job opportunities will not require any investment on your part.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Before taking any action after receiving an offer or proposal via phone or email, Google to see if anyone has posted a complaint about the organization. Your secretary of state, chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau are all resources to check before you make any decisions.
  • Even job-search websites, executive recruiters and career counseling companies must be checked. For example, a Google search of “theladders.com” and “scam” quickly brings up a string of real-life stories about everything from wasting money on the membership fee to being charged for a “professional” rewrite of your resume.
  • Check out hotjobs.yahoo.com for more information about this and many more helpful topics.

The news isn’t all bad. There are legitimate companies offering real jobs. Remember to use common sense and some basic research before making a decision about your next job.

- Thanks WHN reader!