No. 4: Visit An AARP "Work Search" Office
Since January 2008, AARP has been building a network of offices--now up to 75--offering skills-assessment services, retraining and job-hunting advice (mostly for free) to folks 40 and up. To qualify, your income for the prior six months must not be above the median income for your community. More details and locations are at www.aarpworksearch.org. "Individuals who may have never thought about a program like this are applying," says Deborah Russell, director of workforce issues at AARP.
No. 5: Go Back to School, With Tax Breaks
Community colleges are ramping up certificate programs in growth fields ranging from medical-record keeping to solar panel installation. For part-time coursework, the Lifetime Learning tax credit gives you up to $2,000 off your federal income taxes. If you are enrolled more than half-time in an undergraduate program, you may be eligible to claim the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit. (Income limits apply to both credits).
No. 6: Tap Retirement Accounts With Care
Usually, money you take from a pre-tax IRA or 401(k) before age 59 and a half is subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty, in addition to normal tax. But there are lots of exceptions to that penalty--and also lots of traps. For example, if you're already 55, or are turning 55 in the year you're laid off, you can tap into a 401(k) but not an IRA without penalty. If you're out of work, you can use an IRA, but not a 401(k), to pay health insurance premiums.
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