No. 7: Take Social Security Early, Pay It Back
If you're already 62 and need to take early Social Security benefits to make ends meet, do so. But if you land a new job, consider repaying any benefits you've taken and waiting until at least your "normal" or "full" retirement age (66 to 67 for those born in 1943 or later) to claim benefits. Until that age, you'll lose $1 of Social Security benefits for each $2 of earned income you have over $14,160. Surprisingly, you can pay back benefits without interest and then claim a larger check later.
No. 8: Know Your Unemployment Benefits
The National Employment Law Project offers a comprehensive guide to benefits at www.unemployedworkers.org. The stimulus extended the normal 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for most workers by 20 or 33 weeks. Residents in states with particularly high unemployment may qualify for an additional 13 or 20 weeks beyond that. Another stimulus change: The first $2,400 of unemployment benefits you collect in 2009 isn't subject to income tax. (That's $4,800 per couple if both spouses collect unemployment.)
No. 9: Seek Out Stimulus Jobs
The federal government will soon start lavishing money on certain fields, including energy, education and health care. For example, there's money in the stimulus bill to hire former scientists and engineers to teach science and work in high-need schools.
No. 10: Deduct Your Job Search and Moving Costs
Whether you're unemployed or still working, you can deduct from your taxable income certain job-search expenses, even if you don't land a new job, so long as you're looking in the same field you have been working in. Among deductible costs: employment agency fees and costs for printing and mailing résumés. Travel costs for job-hunting jaunts are deductible too, as long as the trip isn't primarily personal. For details, see IRS publication 529, "Miscellaneous Deductions."
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