Receiving free money in the form of unemployment is easier than you might think! Don’t let ignorance rob you of free money. If I had done more research into unemployment in December 2012 I could have been $900 richer. I did not even lose my job and I could have collected unemployment!
If you lose your job or your hours get cut, hopefully you are not at fault and can collect some Unemployment Insurance (shortened to UI). UI coupled with your savings and investments can be a powerful safety net! People often shorten Unemployment Insurance to just ‘unemployment’, but they mean the same thing.
If you make around $46k per year, then you should qualify for the maximum benefit. Currently the maximum UI payout in California is $450/week–which works out to $1950/month. Not bad, considering that is more than I spend in a month anyways! But if you have a stay-at-home spouse or children, this probably won’t pay all the bills, so just consider Unemployment as a supplement to help weather the storm.
WHEN CAN I COLLECT UNEMPLOYMENT?
Did you know you don’t even have to lose your job to collect unemployment? I did not! If I had known, I would be $900 richer and Christmas in 2012 would not have hurt my wallet so much. I was not fired or laid off in 2012 but could have collected 2 weeks of unemployment. I worked as a temporary employee for a pharmaceutical company. Every year these large production plants usually have a planned shutdown for 1-2 weeks to perform maintenance. Since I was a temp and there was no work I could do during the shutdown, I was not getting paid. Little did I know, that qualifies for unemployment!
Since I did not have the ability to work (site was shut down) and I had no vacation time, I could have collected unemployment. Usually, in order to receive unemployment, you have to be unable to work and have no vacation time to cover the period of lost work.
In some cases, if you are working full-time and get laid off, but start working part-time, you may still be able to collect unemployment. Most states reduce the unemployment benefit based on the part time income (but they do not reduce the benefit for investment income, more on this later). There are so many rules for so many states, you will need to call into your local unemployment office to see if you qualify. But it is completely worth the time to make the call and check. Unemployment is easier to collect than I thought.
In some states, even seasonal workers can collect unemployment! So if you did seasonal work for the Christmas retail rush and find yourself unemployed in January, it would be smart to contact your city’s unemployment office to see if you qualify. It might be inconvenient to make a 20 minute call to the office, but you could be quite a bit richer for it–I’d say worth a shot!
HOW DO I GET THE MAXIMUM UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT
First off, you cannot collect UI if you quit or get fired. You have to lose your job through no fault of your own. If your company went through some downsizing and you were laid off, you’re in luck (except for the whole losing your job thing) and should be able to collect Unemployment! Even if you worked full-time and were reduced to part-time, you may be able to collect. If however, you are tired and feel like taking a break from work and quit, you will not be able to collect unemployment.
Don’t bother trying to cheat the system. The Unemployment office will be contacting your previous employer to find the reason you no longer work there. Your previous employer has every reason to tell the Unemployment office that you were fired with cause, since they would not have to pay you unemployment if it was your fault for losing the job. So if you get fired for sexually harassing the cute secretary, kiss the secretary and your unemployment check goodbye!
If you worked part-time and only made $300 per week, don’t expect to receive the maximum California benefit of $450 per week. Unemployment is meant to replace a portion of your previous salary, not pay you more. To get a quick estimate of what you will receive (at least in California), figure out what you earn in a complete quarter (3 months) and divide that by 26. The Employment Development Department has a nice chart here laying out the benefit amounts. They usually take your highest paid quarter in the last year or so.
If you earn $46,000 per year
You earn $46k / 4 quarters in a year = $11,500
$11.5k / 26 = $442
You should receive around $442 per week in UI
If you earn $10 per hour (which is $20,800 per year)
You earn $5,200 per quarter
You should receive $200 per week in UI
WHAT INCOME COUNTS TOWARDS UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Only the money that your employer pays you counts: earned income. If you happened to get a few cash tips that you forgot to report, that money will not count as income and will be excluded from the calculation. If you tell them about the tips you forgot to report then they could report you to the IRS and you will end up owing back taxes or even be faced with an audit. Not even Al Capone could hide from the IRS.
Be wary of part-time work, as it can reduce or disqualify your UI payouts. If you are laid off from a job making $3,800 per month you will receive UI ~$450 per week (the max). If you start working part-time all year and only make $1000 per month, then that income will start to be included instead of the $3,800. If you worked for a little more than a year, your unemployment will be based completely off of your current salary ($1000/month). Remember they base your benefit on your highest paid quarter in the last year or so.
There are a lot of different rules for the different states so be sure to check them out yourselves. They will have different rules for looking at the income you earn, the maximum benefit you can receive, and how long you can continue to receive it. Though, all the basics are roughly the same and all the ideas we talked about should apply. It is worth your time to call the office and check if you qualify to receive unemployment! One 20 minute call could have made me $900!
YOUR INVESTMENT INCOME WILL NOT COUNT AGAINST YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Any investment income you might have will not count against you. Even if you are already a multimillionaire and make $100,000 per year in passive dividends or interest, you can collect UI if you meet the other requirements. Your investments do not count as earned income. As long as you meet the other requirements such as getting laid off instead of fired and be “willing and able” to work, you can collect UI. You have been secretly paying into the Unemployment system all the time you were working, so you might as well do some collecting if your company decides to downsize and lay people off.
DO NOT MAKE MY SAME MISTAKE!
The easiest way to disqualify yourself from unemployment is by not even trying to collect. I was completely ignorant and it cost me at least $900! Don’t let laziness or ignorance rob you of the unemployment check you deserve. It is as easy as a quick call to the unemployment office to see if you qualify. So anytime you lose work, please do yourself a favor and call. Even some seasonal workers can collect.
Readers: have you missed any opportunities to collect unemployment? Maybe one of your friends qualifies to collect unemployment but has not taken the time to call the office? Do not be afraid to tell them, I only found out I missed an opportunity to collect because a friend was nice enough to tell me!
Photos by “Stockimages” and “Stuart Miles” on freedigitalphotos.net