There are 15 million Americans looking for work and trying to find ways to pay their bills. So "GMA" financial contributor Mellody Hobson hit the streets of Chicago to give financial advice and answer your questions about unemployment.
I'm Unemployed, What Do I Do About My Retirement Accounts?
Hobson said that it is "very very important" to consolidate all of your retirement accounts because as you get older you may forget where they are.
"The average American has 11 jobs in their lifetime. So, a lot of people leave their company and they end up with all of these separate IRAs and 401(k)s. And what happens is terribly disappointing, is that many people forget about them," Hobson said.
If you are still looking for work, 25 states have passed legislation to extend unemployment benefits, Hobson said.
CLICK HERE to find out if you can apply.
Hobson also suggested taking advantage of the COBRA subsidy that the government has extended to May 31. This credit allows people to only pay 35 percent of their premium and their employer pays 65 percent, but your employer claim a tax credit for the amount they paid.
If you are eligible, Hobson said you can receive this subsidy for up to 15 months. This credit decreased the average family bill from $1,100 a month to $389.
How Do I Manage My Financial Priorities?
Carol, whose husband was out of work for six months, asked Hobson about how to prioritize her financial obligations. She has two children in college and her daughter's wedding is approaching.
"This is not going to sound very charitable of me, so I'll put this right up front, but your priority is you and specifically making sure that you are financially sound," Hobson said.
Hobson encouraged Carol to make sure her and her husband were financially secure in their own life and retirement before worrying about their other obligations.
"You have to be supportive without hurting yourself. That means continuing to contribute to your retirement before loaning money to your kids," Hobson said. "If you can spare the money, share it with them but be clear that it is a loan. If they move in charge them rent and expenses, even if they can't pay it now. It will make them more responsible with the money they do have."
Hobson suggested offering them a better deal to keep yourself employed.
"You might cut them a better rate…'Normally I charge you $10 an hour but if you employ me X number of hours a week, I can drop that down,'" Hobson said.
Hobson said there are a lot of "takeaways" for high school and college students looking for summer jobs. Because the economy is challenging, they are going to learn excellent negotiating skills to secure employment.
What Protections Do I Need to Self-Fund My Own Entrepreneurial Venture?
"One of the things about entrepreneurial endeavors is that people tend to be very passionate about them. And as a result of that they pour lots and lots of money into making them work, and of course most small businesses don't make it," Hobson said. "So, the one thing that you want to do is be extraordinarily disciplined on the front end about how much money you will commit."
Hobson said that on the front-end you should be extraordinarily disciplined about how much you are willing to commit to the business.
Web Extra Tips from Hobson
President Obama's healthcare bill is going to help the unemployed immediately because young adults can now remain on their parents' plan until they are 26. In the past they were dropped at 19 or when they finished college. Additionally six months after the law is enacted, every state is required to set up a temporary high-risk pool for individuals who are unemployed, very sick, and cannot get a policy. Finally in 2014, each state will be required to establish a healthcare exchange, which will provide government-subsidized insurance to everyone.
With tax day just having passed, this is a good time to remember that job hunting expenses are tax deductible. If you are looking for a job in the same field, you can deduct some of your expenses such as resume prep and employment agency fees. You can claim these expenses as long as your miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.
Do not hide financial difficulties from your family. Have them suggest cost-cutting measures and job hunting strategies. This will help them understand your situation, and they will feel like they are pitching in.