This financial tip from The Chronicle's Dave Murphy (who used to write a jobs column):
I don't know if this is worth including, but thought I'd pass it along for anybody who gets a buyout or is laid off and is between ages 55 and 59 1/2:
From Suze Orman's Web site: If you are 55 or older in the year of your retirement, you can withdraw any or all of the money, whenever you wish, from your qualified retirement plan without any penalties whatsoever. This rule of "fifty-five and over" pertains only to money in employee qualified plans, not for any other retirement account, such as an IRA, an IRA rollover, or SEP/IRA.
She goes on to say that if you take the money and roll it over into an IRA or whatever, then you generally can't withdraw it until age 59 1/2 without a penalty.