A more prudent way to catch up is to save more. If you turned 50 since losing your job, you now are eligible for catch-up contributions to a 401(k) or similar plan, Rockville planner Brown notes. Older workers can put away up to $22,000 a year in a 401(k), or $5,500 more than younger colleagues.

Also, check out online calculators, such as T. Rowe Price's Retirement Income Calculator, to see the impact the job loss had on your future retirement.

Birkelbach says he and his wife made an effort to save for retirement during their layoffs, although they saved much less than before. Still, the loss of income will add at least a couple of years to his previous retirement date, Birkelbach says.

Consider a line of credit A home equity line of credit allows you to borrow against the equity in your house — if you still have some.

You need to have a job to qualify for the credit line, Brown says. Now that you're working again, he says, you should establish a line of credit that you can use in emergencies. You can keep the line open for years without using it and will pay interest only when you tap it.

Be aware, since the credit crisis of 2008 the standards for getting a line of credit are more stringent. And, depending on the lender, you might have to pay certain fees. So shop around.

Pull credit reports Find out the damage unemployment did to your credit by getting your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Get a free copies at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Correct any inaccuracies.

Avoid credit repair schemes promising to clean up your record for a fee. "Whatever they charge is too much" because you can do the job yourself for free, says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

To restore good credit, repay debt and make sure you consistently pay bills on time.

"There is no silver bullet. There is no fast track," Cunningham says. "But know that the farther you move away from your financial distress, the less impact it has."

You also might have to reapply for a credit card if an issuer dropped you. Online sources, such as Credit.com, CreditCard.com or CardRatings.com, can help you find a card that fits you.

If your application is rejected, try once more with another card, Cunningham says. But don't fill out a flood of applications, which will make you appear desperate and hurt your credit record, she says.

If you can't qualify for a regular credit card, consider a secured card. You put money in the bank issuing the card, and the amount of the deposit serves as your credit limit. Once you show a track record of paying on time, you could qualify for a regular credit card.

Avoid splurging Resist the temptation to treat yourself to a big purchase now that money is rolling in again.

"Do something smaller but gratifying, as opposed to taking the family on a vacation that they have not had, finally redoing the kitchen or buying that new car," Worley says. "Taking everyone out to a nice dinner, fine."

For Birkelbach, small pleasures are enough.

"We go to movies more. It's a tiny luxury," he says. "Even then, we are still going to the dollar movie as opposed to the first-run movies."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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