July 22, 2024
Millennial Money: A financial checklist to quit your job

Burnt out? Over it? Ready for a change?

Millions of people are quitting their jobs each month in what many have dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

Before you join the mass employment exodus, do a thorough scan of your financial situation.

That means, of course, taking a hard look at your spending habits and any savings you’ve accumulated — you need at least a little cover to get you from one job to the next.

It also means taking inventory of everything your employer currently subsidizes. Things like health care, retirement savings, commuter benefits and stock options, which you may surrender when you exit.

“People know they’re walking away from a paycheck,” says Eric Roberge, a certified financial planner and founder of Beyond Your Hammock, a financial planning firm in Boston. “But they often forget to consider their benefits packages.”

Use this financial checklist to make sure you don’t leave any money on the table when you leave your job.

— USE YOUR FSA: Flexible spending accounts don’t move with you from one job to the next. You typically need to use the funds before you resign or lose that money altogether.

With health care FSA accounts, you can use the full amount elected, even if you’ve only contributed a portion when you leave. With dependent care accounts, you can use what you’ve contributed up to your final paycheck.

Most FSA plans offer a grace period, allowing you to submit claims after you leave. But you’ll be reimbursed only for eligible expenses that occurred on or before your last day, so stock up on cold medicine, hand sanitizer and ibuprofen before calling it quits.

There is one exception: If you opt for COBRA coverage (more on that below), you may be able to keep your health care FSA. If you go this route, you’ll continue to make contributions, plus pay any FSA and COBRA administration fees.

— SPEND ANY UNUSED COMMUTER BENEFITS: Did you make pretax contributions to pay for parking or public transportation? Use those funds before your last day or you might lose them forever.

— GET CHECKUPS, REFILL PRESCRIPTIONS: If you have health insurance through your employer, take care of any routine medical appointments (and nonroutine things you’ve been putting off) before your insurance runs out.

When your employer-provided plan will end depends on your employer, though it’s typically either on your last day or at the end of the calendar month in which you left.

— INVESTIGATE VACATION, SICK LEAVE: Companies differ on how they handle accrued vacation and sick time. Some will cut you a check for any unused vacation when you leave. Others will pay out a set number of hours (up to 20 hours, for example). With others, you forfeit any unused time when you quit.

Find out what your employer’s policy is before putting in your notice and use up any time you won’t be paid for when you quit. You’ve earned your vacation and sick days, so don’t leave any time or money behind.

— SIGN UP FOR HEALTH INSURANCE: Don’t risk going uncovered while between jobs. Evaluate your health insurance options and choose a plan that works for you.

You may also have the option to continue your employer insurance but pay the full premium, for up to 18 months via the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA. You can also jump on your spouse’s plan or sign up for a new one through the health insurance marketplace. (Quitting your job is considered a qualifying life event.)

— RESEARCH YOUR 401(K) FEES: Make sure you’re well versed on the plan options with your employer’s 401(k), as well as any fees associated, so you can decide what to do with your account when you leave.

You may choose to leave your 401(k) where it is, but that should be an intentional choice, not the default. If you have a new job lined up, you can roll it into your new employer’s plan (if it offers one).

“Pay attention to fees in each 401(k) and the different investment options to decide where it makes sense to keep your money,” says Elliott Appel, founder of Kindness Financial Planning in Wisconsin. “Another option is to roll it into an IRA, where you can choose the investments and minimize costs.”

— LEARN YOUR VESTING SCHEDULES: Some companies use a vesting schedule to dole out benefits like stock and retirement plan contributions. Leave the company before you’re 100% vested and some — or all — of that money could go back to your employer.

Before you turn in your notice, find out whether you’re fully vested. If you’re not, take note of your next vesting milestone and how much money you’ll forfeit if you leave before that date.

“It’s imperative to know what you might be leaving on the table so you can weigh the cost versus benefit,” says Ashlee deSteiger, founder of Gunder Wealth Management in Michigan.

You may opt to stay another week, month or year to gain full ownership of your vested benefits.


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Kelsey Sheehy is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @kelseylsheehy.


NerdWallet: What is a flexible spending account? https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-what-is-a-flexible-spending-account

HealthCare.gov https://www.healthcare.gov/