Layoffs, Prenups and Wedding Planning in the Time of COVID

May 1, 2020 | Finances, Prenuptial Agreements

We are undoubtedly living in an unprecedented time right now. As the coronavirus continues to rip through the globe, we are witnessing heavy economic impact in the United States, causing the highest unemployment rate in US history. If you recently lost your job, significant assets, or both due to the recent market downturn, it is important to remember that you are not alone. As CNBC recently reported, the unemployment rate is expected to hit 32.1%. That’s just about ⅓ of the entire nation’s workforce experiencing this together. Even those non-essential workers who were able to hold onto their jobs have had to significantly alter their daily lives to help flatten the curve. Is it working? Hopefully. Will this be over soon? *Fingers crossed*

If you are currently engaged, this pandemic could mean a lot of different things for your big day. We’re going to dive into what unemployment while wedding planning could mean for you and how it may impact your thoughts around a prenup. And of course, how to get through it all.

So, You Have Been Laid Off…

Getting laid off can be traumatic. After all, it’s a loss of a major part of your life (if you work full-time, a job occupies about ⅓ of your life!), so it is not shocking that losing that job can hurt as much as a rough breakup. What’s next? Can I even get another job in an economy like this? Before you settle in to properly grieve and set up your game plan for the next few months, there are a couple of time sensitive things you should get done immediately. While it may seem like a pain to do right now, trust us, you’ll thank yourself later.

Take Note of Your Achievements

While you will obviously have to respect non-disclosure agreements and intellectual property rules your former place of employment has set, rounding up your achievements on paper, in the form of a detailed and bulleted list will be extremely helpful as you move forward and look for a new job. The more detailed a picture you can paint about your last role, the higher your chances will be of landing a job that suits your experience and interests. Why do this now? Because your day-to-day job is fresh in your mind. You can refine the wording later, but there is no time like a quarantine to organize yourself.

If you’re in a line of work that values portfolio pieces, speak with your direct supervisor to figure out which pieces of work you can copy or share. It’s especially essential to do this soon after you get the layoff news, as it is likely that you will soon have to return any work-issued technology you possess, and may not have access to those valuable projects.

Figure Out Your Severance Agreement

The last thing that you want to do is let the benefits of a severance agreement pass you by. First, speak to your HR manager to figure out whether or not you are currently entitled to one. If it’s established that you are, be sure to determine if there are any terms you may have to agree to/sign off on in order to obtain the severance. When and if you do receive the agreement, do not feel pressured to get it signed and returned immediately. While you don’t want to delay receipt of benefits for too long, it’s worthwhile to take your time in looking the document over. If anything stands out as unclear or confusing, it may even be worth speaking with an employment attorney to ensure you are comfortable with everything that this agreement entitles you to.

Get Your Health Insurance Sorted

Health insurance is undoubtedly a massive and burdensome expense. If you were recently laid off and will lose your health insurance, don’t panic- there are plenty of options available to you, and government-funded health insurance programs like Obamacare consider losing your job a “qualifying life event”, enabling you to enroll outside of typical open enrollment windows. Medicaid has also recently loosened its qualifying factors in light of the pandemic. You can read more on Healthcare.gov to guide you in the right direction depending on your situation.

If you’d rather just stay on your current insurance plan provided through your employer, you can do so temporarily thanks to COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). The downside is that if your employer covered part of the premium, it is now your responsibility to pay the whole thing. Having health insurance is critical, especially now, so while getting all of this sorted may seem like a hassle, it will surely save you a lot of stress (and money) later.

Apply for Unemployment

Apply for unemployment, and do it sooner rather than later! The process can take a while to get completed, especially while the system is very much overloaded. Try going in at an off-peak time to avoid the site crashing, and be prepared with your Social Security number, bank account info (for direct deposits) and information about the jobs you’ve held in the last 18 months. The better prepared you are, the less chance you have of the site timing out while you tear through your desk looking for your Social Security card.

Once you submit your claim, you must wait for it to be approved until you begin receiving benefits. Additionally, be aware that there are several caveats to unemployment that vary state-to-state. On account of the recent CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act) stimulus bill, some states are waiving requirements like weekly certifications, etc. Applying for unemployment can be a shock, especially if it was the last thing you were expecting to do. But remember, over 30% of the U.S. population is in the same boat, meaning there is a large support network for you to reach out to.

Sorting Out Your Wedding

In addition to the impact that COVID-19 is having on the U.S. healthcare system (and ok, every system, really) it has made the events business nearly extinct for the time being. If you had a wedding planned in the coming months, it is likely that this pandemic has upended plans for your big day. Even if your wedding is not until the latter half of this year, it is possible that this halt to the economy will make it financially impossible for you to put on the wedding that you envisioned or planned initially.

After you have taken care of the necessities we’ve just touched on above, go ahead and take a minute to grieve and collect your thoughts before moving forward with any cancellations. While there is a major health crisis going on, it’s still acceptable to be upset that an (expensive) event you have waited your entire life for is not going to go according to plan. You may want to get in touch with loved ones and a handful of people involved directly in the wedding before you announce any decisions to your full wedding party and guests. If anyone was set to financially assist you with the big day, contact them to get a read on their current situation, and how they think you should proceed. For more tips on postponing your wedding on account of COVID-19, have a read through our recent blog post on the topic.

How does COVID Affect Your Prenup?

If you or your partner has been laid off while you were in the midst of wedding planning and/or discussing a prenup, you may be reconsidering some terms of your agreement. After all, it’s undoubtedly a tad awkward to negotiate something like waiving future alimony while one party is out of a job, and the other has the upper hand. While we always emphasize how vital a prenup can be in ensuring a positive relationship by facilitating important financial discussions, these discussions may be especially relevant while one or both of you are out of a job, without income, and/or watching assets in rapid decline as the stock market tanks. Couples who discuss money regularly tend to have more successful marriages, and having a sit-down to figure out how you’re going to financially make it through COVID-19, including a layoff, is not only essential right now, but also to how you will handle such events in the future. Who will pay the rent or mortgage? Will you continue to contribute as you did pre-layoff by using savings? What about utilities and groceries? While this may not be the conversation you want to be having right now, focus on the positive- talking through this hardship will likely strengthen your relationship.

Working through this hardship may change the way you view a prenuptial agreement, too. In light of one spouse feeling like the underdog for the time being, you may include clauses that you would not have previously thought to consider adding, like a sunset clause, or choosing not to waive alimony in the future. Once you have gone through the experience of having one partner unexpectedly lose their job, you may decide as a couple that adding a clause about sharing a joint bank account could make unplanned situations like this more simple and easier to navigate in the future. You can incorporate this clause in your prenup, agreeing that each spouse will pay a certain amount or percentage of their salary into said joint bank account.

As stated above, negotiating the finer points of your prenup while one partner is unemployed may also push you to incorporate something like a sunset clause, which can be beneficial to a partner who is less well-off financially in the long run. In short, a sunset clause basically acts as an expiration date for your prenup. Whether it is after being married for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, or more, a basic sunset clause establishes a date that your prenup will “expire”, totally determined by you and your fiancé. The thought process behind a sunset clause is that after a period of time spent being married, couples are much less likely to divorce and therefore may be more confident that their marriage will last, or that if they were to divorce in the future, they could do so amicably.

It goes without saying that there is a lot of tension and uncertainty in the air as we brace for what comes next with COVID-19. If you lost your job, or will soon be furloughed, we can understand how those feelings of anger and anxiety may be amplified right now. Remember that together, we will manage to get through this very difficult and complicated time. There will eventually be light at the end of the tunnel (your wedding!), as well as new job opportunities. This is not a time for shame, but rather a time to come together with the support of those you love.

While your wedding day is going to be the happiest day of your life, why not go into it feeling confident with the commitment that awaits you?Interested in learning more about a prenup? Read our FAQ section here, and watch our informational videos here.

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