Four Simple Steps to Recession-proof Your Income
Recession. It's a scary word that makes even the most fiscally
responsible among us cast a nervous eye on our bank accounts.
Even scarier, not everyone can even agree whether our economy is
in a temporary slump or an all-out free fall. But, recession or
not, you can take steps to ensure that you and your family are
secure in a weak economy.
And, remember to stay calm. The worst thing you can do is make
hasty, fear-based decisions. Take a deep breath and think
rationally. It's important to realize that, with a little
preparation, you can be ready if and when a recession hits. You
can't control the economy, but you can control how you react to
news of an impending recession.
Step One: Sharpen your Job Search Skills
One of the most frightening things about a recession is the
possibility of losing your income when your company decides to
cut costs. Nobody wants to think about being out of work, but
there are things you can do right now to make sure that you
won't be completely caught off guard:
* Revise your résumé. If you've been out of the job market for
a while, now is the time to give your résumé a makeover. Review
it and add new, relevant work experience, skills, awards, and
anything else that will make you stand out from the crowd if you
need to start looking for a new job.
* Know your options. It doesn't hurt to start looking at
alternatives - spend a little time skimming through the want ads
in your local paper, and check out job search websites like
Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com. Find out who is hiring people
to do what you do. If you see something that sounds intriguing,
go ahead and apply. You never know - you may find your dream job.
And, remember that some industries are more stable than others:
Healthcare and education, for example, are not as dependant on
the economy as the construction industry. Get creative and think
about how your skills might transfer to a different field.
* Start networking. Consider joining a business networking group
to expand your list of contacts - they say that when it comes to
landing a job, it's often all about who you know. Connections
can come in handy if you're faced with an unexpected layoff.
Networking sites like LinkedIn.com and even FaceBook.com are
great ways to stay connected to coworkers and business partners.
Remember to keep saving money, even if your job is secure: In a
recession, raises and bonuses tend to be less than they are in a
more stable economy.
Step Two: Beef up Your Emergency Fund
Experts recommend that you should have some extra cash saved up
for emergencies like an injury or the unexpected loss of a job.
Your emergency fund should allow you to cover your mortgage,
bills, groceries, and other living expenses for 3-5 months. If
you already have emergency savings, keep adding to it. If you
don't, start now:
* Pay yourself first. Even if you're on a tight budget, make an
effort to put something into savings every payday. Make some
adjustments to your spending, like giving up restaurant meals or
cutting your entertainment budget, and start funneling more of
your income into savings.
* Think Interest. Put your emergency savings into an
interest-bearing savings account or a money market account so
you'll earn some money on it while you save. But, make sure you
don't invest your emergency funds into anything that makes you
pay a penalty for withdrawal, like an IRA - the whole point of
having emergency savings is to have money when you need it.
* Restrict your access. If you aren't careful, you may end up
spending your emergency fund as fast as you put it away. To avoid
using your emergency savings, consider putting the money into a
separate account at a different bank. And, don't carry an ATM or
debit card that's linked to that account.
Step Three: Don't Spend That Bonus-Raise-Tax Refund-Stimulus
Even though you might be expecting some additional income this
year, that doesn't mean you have to rush out and spend it.
Instead of rushing to the mall and buying that flat-screen TV
you've been eyeing, take a minute to think about other, more
responsible ways you could use the money:
* Save it and forget it. It's money you didn't have before, so
it should be pretty easy to pretend you never got it in the first
place. Deposit it into your savings account or use it to pad your
emergency fund. But, do it quickly - the longer you have that
check, the more likely you are to spend it on something
* Pay off debt. If you've got a car loan, a student loan, or
credit card bills hanging over your head, this is a perfect
opportunity to take a big bite out of your debt.
Step Four: Identify Sources of Extra Cash
Whether you want to add to your emergency fund or just pad your
savings account, there are several things you can do to put a
little extra cash in your pocket:
* Sell your stuff. Scour your storage spaces, purge your
closets, and ransack your attic. If you haven't worn it, used
it, or thought about it in a decade, it's time to let go. Have a
garage sale, sell it on eBay, or take out a classified ad - put
the extra money into your savings or your emergency fund.
* Get a second job or work overtime. What better way to impress
the boss than to stay late or come in early to knock out a few
projects? Not only will you show some initiative, you'll also
add to your bottom line. If you don't get overtime, consider a
part-time job on evenings or weekends - a little extra income
You can't prevent a recession, but you can prepare for one by
making smarter financial choices. In any economy, learning to
spend less, save more, and cut costs can pave the way to
financial stability and peace of mind.
(c)2008 Mike Peterson
Mike Peterson is the author of "Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips
To Retire Rich" and co-founder of the American Credit Foundation,
Inc., a nonprofit credit counseling organization that has
assisted thousands of individuals and families with their
financial situations through seminars, education, counseling
services, and, debt management plans. For more information,
and free consumer resources visit: www.debtguru.com