Even if you aren't a federal employee hit hard by the longest government shutdown in history, there may come a time when your future is hanging in the balance from a furlough or layoff.
How will you explain to your kids that you're now spending time at home instead of heading to work bright and early?
Will you have a family talk about the need to cut back on the cable package or eliminating the traditional Sunday night out for pizza? And what about saying "no" to your kids about favorite snacks at the grocery store?
Regardless of whether your kids are second-graders or teens, these topics aren't easy to discuss. You may also be apprehensive about telling the kids anything because of embarrassment over your loss of income or concerns about worrying them.
But even if your children are relatively young, open the lines of communication, said Lucas Buci, a certified financial planner with Aspyre Wealth Partners in the Kansas City area. Kids can pick up on your stress, so, in an age-appropriate way, let them know what has happened and that the family "will need to work together to reduce expenses and stretch any cash reserves," he said.
If you are a government worker, you might explain that your temporary job loss was not something you could control and had nothing to do with your quality of work.
You know your children best, so the amount of detail you choose to share should depend on the age and maturity of each child. But by all means, Buci said, let them know that "things will be OK and that the family will support each other during this time" of uncertainty.
As difficult as it may be, give thanks for the positive things that are still going on in your life, Buci said. "This can help shift the focus and narrative from how bad things are to the blessings the family may still enjoy," he said.
Because bills can pile up quickly, consider asking your kids what expenses can be reduced and how they can help. The kids might have good suggestions on free or cheap activities or outings.
If you or your spouse is hustling to earn some additional income, frame that as a positive, said Buci. "Setting an example of resourcefulness and hard work are two values that will likely be useful to a child if they encounter struggles down the road," he said.
If you have older kids, you may also want to tackle the topic of borrowing money to stay afloat.
Discuss the pros and cons of taking out a loan to cover the bills. Yes, there can be some advantages, especially if you have a good credit history, are likely to receive back pay or severance and understand the terms of the loan. But do you want to borrow your way out of a cash crunch?
This is also an opportunity to remind your teen or college-age child of the need to build a rainy-day fund of his or her own. That's assuming you've done so. Financial planners generally recommend building an emergency fund to cover at least three months' worth of household expenses.
With any luck, these will be conversations you won't need to have with your kids, but layoffs can happen to anyone, so be prepared.
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