Ask Chuck: Preparing for a Recession

Dear Chuck,

I’m hearing and reading murmurs of a coming recession. My investments took a beating in the last one, and our property value has finally recovered. I’m feeling uneasy and would love your advice on how to adequately prepare?

Getting Nervous

Dear Nervous,

The idea of preparing for hardship is timeless. Noah built an ark. Joseph stored grain. Moses and the Israelites stocked up before leaving Egypt.

The truth is that we never really know when tough times or calamity will strike. So God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, has warned us to always be prepared for the unexpected: The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (Proverbs 27:12)

Recession or Continued Economic Growth?

There is good reason for the rumors you are picking up on about the increasing potential for a recission. The current bull market is the second longest in history. However, a recent report revealed that economists with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) expressed their concerns that America’s chances of a recession are growing. This is due to factors that include trade tensions, rising interest rates, and predicted slower growth. If so, our public wealth could be cut by around $5 trillion.

Ask Chuck Preparing for a Recession

A recession is technically two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The Great Recession, from December 2007 to June 2009 was our last downturn. They have generally occurred every eight years on average in our modern era with 10 years being the longest period between recessions. In March of 2019, this bull market will celebrate its 10th birthday. But recent market volatility has had some experts wondering if it will make it to the 10th birthday. No one knows when, but a downturn is certain.

The warning signs include bubbles. Recall the real-estate bubble that led to the 2008 recession and the stock market bubble prior to Black Friday in 1929. Last year,  George Friedman said,  “The precursors to a depression — such as irrational exuberance of asset classes, rising interest rates, a negative yield curve, and proclamations that ‘this time, it’s different’ — have at most been modestly appearing. But the clock is ticking.”

Danger is Greater for the Unprepared

As a nation, Americans are woefully unprepared for another recession. High levels of debt have become an accepted lifestyle and the personal savings rate, which was actually negative before 2008, has not improved substantially since the Great Recession. We need to prepare but not be paranoid. In fact, preparation should dramatically reduce fears of the uncertain future we will all face.

Effects of a Major Recession:

  • Debt and deficits would increase in Washington.
  • Worldwide governments would be impacted.
  • People will default on mortgages and student loans.
  • States and towns would have to cut spending, which would further drag down the economy. This would cause shortfalls in pension funds to increase, leaving less money for retirement than planned.
  • Interest rates could escalate.
  • Stock and real estate prices could collapse.
  • Sovereign debt could jump.
  • Net worth could drop.

Prepare Wisely

  • Reduce your debt.
  • Reduce spending and lifestyle overhead.
  • Buy less than what the bank says you can afford if you have to borrow money.
  • Build an emergency fund to cover 3 to 6 months of living expenses. (Allow more for bigger families.)
  • Transfer money regularly to a savings account.
  • Secure your job by making yourself valuable: learn new skills, attend courses, gain new certifications. Take on leadership roles.  
  • Multiply your income streams in case you lose your job.
  • Diversify investments and consider how much you’re willing to risk based on your age and time to retirement.
  • Prepare your family for the ramifications. Ask for family participation for inexpensive ways to bond: activities that don’t cost anything like hikes, bike rides, going to the park or community events, volunteering together.
  • Update your resume.
  • Don’t worry or panic.
  • Renew your mind on God’s Truth. He is in control.

Prepare to Prosper

Many can actually prosper during a downturn. Here are a few strategies:

  • When stock prices decrease, it is a great time to increase your investment in quality companies that will grow while other weaker companies may shrink or fail. Look at an economic downturn as stocks going on sale! Many great investors have learned to buy when everyone else is afraid.  
  • Retirees should consider putting some money in CD and accounts that pay higher rates to attract bigger deposits.
  • If you’re motivated to buy a home before rates rise higher, don’t stretch to do so. A recession is a great time to buy depressed properties.
  • Continue to steadily invest – recessions can be great time to invest in the stock market, buy depressed real estate, make large purchases or do renovations if you have the extra cash.

Prepare to Preserve

We are to prepare to weather any coming storms. But we are to do it as the salt of the earth.

We are to be God’s preserving agents filled with love and surplus resources that we can share with others who are suffering.

A recession could be the greatest opportunity for demonstrating the love of Christ and sharing the Gospel that we will see in our lifetimes. Financial AND spiritual preparation will enable you to be the compassionate representative of Christ’s interests during a time of need.

Don’t Worry

Psalm 112, verses 1 and 7 assure us, Praise the Lord.  Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands…. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

 

Originally published on the Christian Post, October 19, 2018

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