Job cuts at AT&T raise the question: Is your financial house in order?

This seems to be the week for corporations to announce job cuts. Today it's AT&T announcing that 3,600 U.S. jobs will be lost. Merrill Lynch announced 3,000 cuts yesterday. Washington Mutual is slicing 3,000. AMD is cutting 18,600 worldwide. And there are many companies with smaller numbers announced recently.

These job cuts are the reason why consumers need to have their financial houses in order even better than ever before. Gone are the days in which you'd find an employer and stay there for 30 loyal years. Business has changed, and while the transition is difficult, I'll suggest it's for the better in the long run. While workers can't count on the same job security and stability that they used to, there are many, many more opportunities available to them in this global economy.

But the key to being successful in securing your financial future is by planning for the worst case scenario. I don't want to live my life planning for the worst, but it's something that we must at least keep in mind regularly. The first key to surviving changing economic times is having money in savings.


Some your savings should be easily accessible, in some sort of bank or investment account. The remainder of your money can be invested in more long-term options like real-estate. The thing to keep in mind with the longer term investments is that it may take a while to get cash in hand from them if you need it, so you have to first make sure you have enough cash available in a pinch.

At the same time, consumers must assess their lifestyles and figure out how to best minimize their expenses. I don't mean everyone should live like a pauper. I mean that everyone should make wise choices within their own financial means. When an opportunity comes along to be a little more conservative with your spending, take it.

Personally, I have a "worst case scenario" budget that I track. Essentially, I'm looking at the bare minimum expenses I have to pay, including things like mortgage, basic utilities, groceries, health insurance, etc. I add up those monthly costs and keep that in mind when I'm making financial choices. How long could I survive on my savings if I wasn't able to work?

You don't have to follow my plan or my advice. Do what works for you and your family. But I promise you that you won't regret being a little more conservative with your money than you have been in the past. There will always be a chance for you to spend more money if you have extra funds. There's not always a chance to turn back after a job is lost or a bill is created.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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