When you’re navigating a career change, there are probably a million and one things on your mind. From financial to personal life, it can seem as though everything is getting turned on its side, so it’s important to have a process in place to keep your bearings. The best way to overcome this whirlwind of events begins with our first step.
Creating a plan or checklist of things that need to be done and their deadlines is the most important thing you can do to stay organized during a transition period. Checklists on the computer are fine, but physically writing out what needs to be done can be even more effective. While it seems like such a simple process, it can truly be the difference between forgetting an important detail and getting it done. Pilots use pre-flight checklists to ensure that no small error puts lives in danger and you can use the same tool to ensure you have a successful take-off. If you need any more convincing about the power of checklists, we recommend the book The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.
Your list can be broken down into several categories such as work, financial, personal, and home. If you want to categorize even further, the lists are absolutely open to customization. Everyone is going to have different items for the checklist depending on their situation, so go through the process mentally and take note of what needs to be done. When filling out tasks, be sure to include everything. Even the smallest tasks that you’re sure you will remember should be written down. If it is important enough for it to come to mind, it is important enough to write down. There is no penalty for having too many tasks as long as they are relevant to the goal of the list, which is to ensure a smooth transition.
Now that you’re ready to sit down and write your checklist, ensuring the most important items are prioritized can be just as important as the list itself. Of the foremost things on your mind, transferring your 401(k) probably does not make the cut. In fact, left-behind 401(k)s are so common in the industry that they are affectionately called “orphan 401(k)s.” Our second step to a successful transition is taking the time to transfer your old 401(k) to your new job. When you decide to join another company, your retirement plan doesn’t automatically come along with you. There are certain steps you can take to ensure that the retirement transition goes as well as your career transition. To transfer your 401(k) to your new employer, call your previous plan administrator for the details of their specific process.
With all the moving parts of a career change, your personal finances can become lost in the storm. Your expenses, bills, payments, etc. can be an overwhelming nuisance, and the best defense is organization. When switching companies, many things can seem out of control. Keeping track of your personal finances will help you stay disciplined and steady during your transient period of perceived chaos. Not only will it help you through this transition, but it will continue to benefit you into the future.
There are numerous websites and apps to help you gain control over your financial life. One of our favorite apps is Mint. Mint helps you document expenses, create and stick to a budget, receive updated credit scores, and track and pay bills, among other useful features. To create an account, go to Mint.com or download their app on your phone. Another great way to (re)organize your financial life is to get rid of all the stored financial documents that you no longer need. To determine what you can throw away and what should be kept, we have included our Twelve Points Financial Document checklist to make the process much easier.
Following this simple three step process will provide an excellent starting point to help manage your life during a difficult transition. While switching jobs can be a hectic time, it is also the perfect time to take control. Successfully implementing these steps now will help you stay organized throughout the company shift and into the future.
If you want to learn about the steps for getting a financial plan, click here.