August 22, 2019
It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. economy fell into a recession. That’s a long time ago. But I know for many of you, far from forgotten, as the Great Recession that lasted from late 2007 to mid 2009 was devastating for so many households that lost their jobs and their homes.
In a recent survey, half of middle-class Americans say they expect a recession to occur in the next 12 months. I say: Good for them! If you are thinking about a recession today it can be the motivation to get ready for when it hits.
None of us know when a downturn will happen. But it is a question of when, not if. Your financial plan should always include steps that will help you in a recession.
Here’s your recession-survival kit:
Add to your emergency fund. Recessions are Exhibit A, B and C for why you need an emergency savings fund. Unemployment rises when there is an economic downturn. Everyone is vulnerable. Everyone! Knowing you have an emergency fund that can cover your living costs if you are laid off, or have your hours reduced, is how you survive a layoff in a recession.
If you haven’t started saving, that’s okay. Today’s the day. Ultimately, I think it would be great to have 8 months of living costs in an emergency fund. Maybe you won’t get to 8 months before the next recession hits. That’s also okay. Your goal is to take ownership of your future. Having one month of living costs is better than none. Having two months saved up is better than one. You get the idea.
Pay off your credit card debt. No lip service. No excuses. It is time to do it. Credit card debt is never affordable, and it can be a disaster in a recession if you are laid off, or have your hours cut. Getting rid of this costly monthly expense will give you more breathing room in a recession.
Keep in mind that in a really bad recession, credit card issuers reduce credit limits. If your credit limit is cut it will likely cause your credit score to fall if you continue to run the same balances. A big part of your credit score is how big your balances are relative to your totally available credit limits. When those limits fall, your “utilization” ratio will rise. And that will send your credit score lower.
If your credit score is 720 or higher, you might want to consider a balance transfer to a credit card that will not charge you any interest for at least a year. In a recession, balance transfer deals may disappear. Take advantage of them now: transfer your credit card balances to one of these deals and then make it your priority to get all the debt paid off during the time when you are not charged any interest.
Step it up at work. In a recession, employers often decide to reduce their work force as business is slower and they need to reduce expenses. There is no way to guarantee you won’t be affected, but you sure can help your cause by making yourself as indispensable as possible.
Time to be brutally honest with yourself. Are you putting in your A effort? Do you have all the skills your (younger) colleagues bring to the office? In a recent survey, an alarming percentage of pre-retirees admitted they aren’t doing everything they can to shine at work.
C’mon. That makes you even more vulnerable in a recession. Keeping your job in a recession may come down to the standout work you do today.