The first hints of a downturn aren’t always apparent: Long-term job contracts and the cushion of an emergency fund can often conceal the coming crisis. But without early preparation, many people will find themselves caught unprepared. It’s not impossible to save up enough money to fund an unemployment period, but it requires careful planning and meticulous cash management.

Here are a few things to consider before you lock down your last day on the job.

Look for better things to do with your time. There’s an old adage about life being short, but you’ll always be breathing. Set aside money in savings and leave your job sooner rather than later so you’re not left scrambling to get back in the same predicament.

More research is needed. In other words, you’ll need to do more preparation for the unexpected before you’re forced to leave your job than you might think.

Remember, the money market and bank accounts you’re holding may shrink. An inheritance, an inheritance for yourself or whatever savings you have in the bank will not help you, and you may be stuck taking out more money from your retirement accounts. You’ll probably be able to sleep better once you get out of the daily grind, but you might wind up with lower living standards and less of a cushion.

Get refinanced. Using a credit card can be a necessary evil, but you want to do your research before you jump on that card to start tapping your savings. You won’t get the best credit-card rates if you fill out an application by the next minute. Don’t get caught up in the go-go growth of a new job. It’s tempting, but waiting a few weeks before opening that first line of credit will cost you more in future rates.

Splurge on yourself. When times are good, it’s easy to feel guilty about spending money, but you want to give yourself that same security during the down times. It’s a great time to rest up and take a vacation without worrying about work. Make some tough choices about what you’ll put into your savings or a 401(k) to avoid selling things at lower prices later, so you’ll be in a better position to weather the storm when things get tough.

The personal finance coach and author Lori Elkins is a founder of Start The Conversation, a nonprofit that connects college students with mentors in the career field of their choice to tackle career success together. She is also the host of “Pursuing Your Dream,” a syndicated radio show that raises awareness of living the life you want. Her newest book, “Pursuing Your Dream: The 4-Peat Program,” offers practical tips and strategies for achieving your career goals.

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