On my post about adjusting to a financial crisis such as losing one's job, a commenter noted
It doesn't sound like you figure unemployment into your emergency plan which makes the scenario that much more stressful!
It's true-- when I visualize losing my job and how I'd adjust, I think first of all about what it would take to live on my savings. I'm sure I would qualify for unemployment, but I certainly couldn't count on it to survive. The state of New York is notorious for having very low unemployment benefits, especially in relation to the cost of living in New York City. See this article for a state by state list of maximum unemployment benefits as of 2008. You know there's something out of whack when someone in New York maxes out at $405, or $3 a week less than someone in West Virginia! $21 less than someone in Iowa! $2 less than someone in Kansas! Not to mention that New Yorkers get less than half of what someone in Massachusetts can get. Massachusetts is a great state to be in if you're going to lose your job-- $900 a week maximum!
$405 a week, if that is what I qualified for, would cover maybe half the cost of my current lifestyle-- which, admittedly, is not all that spartan. If I was being careful and making a lot of cutbacks, I might almost balance my budget with an unemployment check-- but there's a limit to how long you can claim benefits. (Normally, you can only claim full benefits for 26 weeks, although right now, due to the economic situation and the stimulus package, benefits are available for an extended period-- up to 53 additional weeks in New York. See the Department of Labor website for details.)
I guess what this comes down to is one of my psychological techniques: I like to pretend money isn't there! When I think about retiring, I try to plan for my own savings to pay the bills, and figure whatever I get from Social Security would just be extra. When I think about losing my job, I figure unemployment benefits would be extra. I always prefer to overestimate my expenses and underestimate my income-- it leads to far better consequences than doing the opposite!