Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to your 9-to-5, you’re not alone.
Millions of workers have quit their jobs in the past year, prompting the term “the Great Resignation.” Countless others are considering making that move. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, more than 40% of U.S. workers are actively seeking or planning to soon find new employment.
If you’re burned out or frustrated with things at your current job, it may be tempting to hastily call it quits without doing any prep work. But the more you plan out your exit, the better prepared you’ll be to handle the aftermath.
Besides, yelling “I quit” or simply walking out on the job will burn bridges and potentially could damage your pursuit for future employment.
This employee resignation checklist details important steps to take before quitting your job.
1. Figure Out Your Next Step
Unless you’re financially independent and don’t need a job to afford your lifestyle, you’ll need a plan for earning money after you quit your job. It’s better to review your options before losing your current income stream.
Consider applying for jobs prior to putting in notice of your resignation. You might avoid having a lapse in income if you can start working in your new role as soon as your old one ends.
If you have entrepreneurial dreams and don’t care to work for another boss, see our ultimate guide to starting a business. This list of home business ideas can help you get started with little capital.
You might decide you really just want to take some time off before jumping into your next employment pursuit. Taking a career sabbatical may mean you won’t be seeing a paycheck coming in, but the time off can be energizing and might help you better concentrate on what you’d like to do next.
2. Save Money for the Transition
It’s smart to build up a financial cushion before leaving your job. Even if you have another gig lined up, it may take a couple of extra weeks until you receive your first paycheck — or you might find out that your new job isn’t exactly what you’d imagined it to be.
Having at least three to six months of living expenses saved in an emergency fund is ideal, but it’s best to save that money for a true emergency, like dealing with unexpected medical bills.
Instead, set up a sinking fund to save up specifically for the costs you’ll encounter if you’re out of work for some time.
3. Take Care of Any Upcoming Big Expenses
Big expenses seem to hurt more when you’re unemployed and living off of savings. Before you quit your job, think about what anticipated big expenses — such as new tires for your car — that you can pay for now while you’re still employed.
Also, it’s vital to note that a loss of employment can hamper your ability to qualify for financing or credit. If you are in the midst of the homebuying process, for example, losing your job could damage your chances of getting a home loan, even if you plan to use a spouse’s income to cover payments. You might want to reconsider your plans or time things so that your loan has already gone through before leaving your job.
4. Use Your PTO or Other Benefits
Before giving notice of your resignation, make sure you make the most of your employer-provided benefits.
Some companies will pay out accrued vacation and sick days upon leaving the company, but others will not. If your company does not pay out accrued paid time off (PTO), make sure to use your vacation days while you can.
Be aware that your employer may not grant your request to use any PTO after you’ve given your two weeks notice.
It’s also best to take advantage of any other employee benefits that you’ll be losing. For instance, if your kid is due to get braces, you might want to get that done while you still have dental insurance under your employer.
5. Gather the Information You’ll Need to Roll Over Your 401(k)
Once you quit your job, you’ll lose the ability to contribute to your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Of course, you can continue saving for retirement with an individual retirement account (IRA) or a 401(k) plan through your next employer — but you might want to roll over the money from your old 401(k) so you don’t have to manage multiple accounts.
If you typically log into your retirement account from your work computer, make sure you have your login information and know your account number so you can easily access your account from home.
6. Figure Out How You’ll Get Health Insurance
For most people, losing their job means losing access to health insurance, though there are still options to continue or get new coverage.
One of the easiest options may be to get on your spouse’s or domestic partner’s health insurance plan if they have coverage through their job. Losing health insurance (even if it’s via a voluntary job loss) is considered a qualifying life event, which means your spouse or partner can add you to their insurance without waiting for their open enrollment period.
Alternatively, you could choose to extend your current health insurance coverage for 18 months through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). However, with COBRA coverage, you’ll have to pay your employer’s portion of premium costs plus an administrative fee.
Since continuing coverage with COBRA can be expensive, another option is to find a more affordable health plan through the health insurance marketplace. The coronavirus pandemic stimulus legislation made it cheaper to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
7. Figure Out How You’ll Receive Your Last Paycheck
Your last paycheck may not come via direct deposit on the schedule you’re used to. Consult with the human resources department or your company’s employee handbook for information on how they issue final paychecks.
Some companies will mail you a paper check, even if you were enrolled in direct deposit in the past. Make sure your address and other contact information is up to date in your employee records.
You should also write down the contact information for your manager or your HR representative in case you encounter any issues or discrepancies when it comes to getting that final payment.
8. Craft a Professional Resignation Letter
Even though it’s best to break the news to your boss in person, you’ll want to follow up with an official resignation letter.
Your resignation letter should include the date of your last working day and other important details, like any projects you plan to finish up. You might want to include the reason for leaving the company, but it’s better to keep things vague than to badmouth your employer and potentially burn a bridge.
Check out this article for smart tips on writing the perfect resignation letter.
9. Tie Up Loose Ends
There may never be the perfect time to quit a job — after all, the work never ends — but your resignation will be accepted more favorably if you don’t quit during a busy season or in the midst of a major project.
If possible, try to time your resignation so you’re able to tie up the loose ends on the work you’re currently doing. You’re more likely to get a positive recommendation from your employer if you’re able to spend time training a new hire or providing a transfer of knowledge so that your colleagues can step in to fill your role when you’re gone.
It’s also helpful to use this time to gather contact information in order to keep in touch with your co-workers. Don’t forget to ask your manager about using him or her as a job reference.
If you work in a field where you need to compile evidence of your past work experience in a portfolio, gather what you need before you put in your notice. Your employer may decide to immediately cut ties with you rather than wait until your selected end date. You don’t want to lose access to files you might need for your portfolio.
10. Prepare for an Exit Interview
Before you leave, your employer might want to sit down with you to discuss your reasons for quitting. While exit interviews can also serve as a way for companies to gain information about what they could improve, remember to handle things professionally so you leave on good terms.
Prepare to tactfully discuss why you’re leaving, what you think about your time with the company and what constructive criticism you might offer to your soon-to-be former employer.
Once you’ve gone through all the things on this list, you’ll be well prepared to quit your job without regrets.
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