Job insecurity: the American worker's reality

By Richard Barrington

For the MoneyRates.com

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5 2014 1:00 a.m. MST

  1. Keep your job skills up to date. Technology and globalization have accelerated the pace of change. You need to stay current so you are adding the value necessary to earn decent raises at your current job, and so you have marketable skills in case you lose that job.
  2. Follow the job market. Even if you are not looking for a job, you should periodically scan employment websites to get a feel for what the market is like. The level of demand for your particular skill set will tell you how confident you should be about asking for a raise, and it might also lead you toward more rewarding opportunities.
  3. Build your emergency savings. The average stint of unemployment today lasts about 17 weeks, so people who are less than absolutely confident in their jobs should build their savings accounts up to help cover expenses for at least that long.
  4. Keep your budget in line. While wages are stagnant for many people, expenses always seem to have a way of creeping up. The best way to keep from losing ground is to actively attack your expenses and try to drive them down. In particular, focus on things that can make a big difference, such as checking for refinancing opportunities and getting competing quotes on your insurance every year.
  5. Make your money work smarter for you. Once you start saving money, that money can go to work for you, but make sure it is working intelligently. Be diligent about minimizing 401(k) fees, insist on a free checking account (yes, they still exist) and shop for higher rates on your savings accounts.
It's tough to make a living these days, but American workers are known for their toughness. As people learn to manage their individual job and financial situations more intensely, the collective effort may well put the nation as a whole on a more competitive footing.