worker.jpgI know most of you have been watching members of Congress, the president and a host of financial regulators scrambling to figure out how the bail out Wall Street. And many of you are probably wondering — “What the heck does this mean to me, the average working stiff?”

OK, here’s the low down:

1. If you have a retirement plan with your employer, basically a 401(k), and you’re retired or about to retire, this financial mess will hit your investments hard. (This is why getting rid of traditional pensions was a stupid idea.)

2. Collapsing financial firms, including some of the biggest investment houses in our nation, immediately led to job losses and more are on the way.

3. Layoffs in other sectors have also increased, everything from autos to technology, and alas, more tightening is expected.

4. Finding a full time gig right now will be harder because many employers are opting to hire temps instead of taking the plunge and hiring a permanent employee that gets benefits like health care. And if you have health care through your employer, expect to start picking up more of the tab next year.

While most workers will keep there jobs, get ready for a financial squeeze. “Average workers will mostly be feeling the crunch from personal finance concerns and household budgets; within the workplace, employees will likely see decreased bonuses, annual reviews and perks. As employers are trying to cut costs and spend only as necessary, the only employees who are likely to see substantial compensation increases will be the highest performers,” says Michael Jalbert, president of MRINetwork.

And it’s not just Wall Street bankers that will face problems.

“Most workers will care because these problems trickle down hard to the lowest wage earners,” says Michael Hayes, owner of Momentum Specialized Staffing, that specializes in recruiting employees for industrial, clerical and sales. “When capital is tight, sales slow, companies lay people off and this put undue pressure on their household budget. You can see the result with food banks and charities running out of food baskets and money.”

Lynne Eisaguirre, a workplace consultant, offers her tips for dealing with the dive:

1. Hold onto your job! Now is not the time to be changing jobs, unless you have a clearly better option. It is the time to network your heart out by going to industry events, conferences and lunches, meeting people who might help you get your next job or improve your status in your current job.
2. Focus on relationships. When job cuts arrive– as they may with this Wall Street crises– those who survive the layoffs will be those who have clearly understood their boss’ goals and helped he or she achieve them. Studies show people would choose to work with someone more likeable over someone more competent.
3. Turn off the media. It’s easy to panic and be unable to do a good job at work. Limit your media diet and focus on things you can control, such as doing your very best every day in your current job.

And for those workers that aren’t nearing retirement, it’s time to face the reality that we’ll have to be bankrolling our golden years and not necessarily be able to just rely on our employers or the government.

It sucks folks, I know. You come to work everyday, do your best to support yourself, your family, and then whammo! Smart guys that should have known better allowed greed to take over and we’re all paying for it now.

You can be mad. But don’t act like victims. Keeping, searching and doing well at a job all require strength and a positive attitude that tells you — “I’m going to make it.”

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