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July 6, 2022

All the talk about a looming recession may have you worried about your finances.

You aren’t alone: Some 74% of U.S. consumers are concerned about a recession, according to a new survey from Empower and Personal Capital. In addition, 85% are worried about inflation and 56% are already seeing their standard of living declining, according to the survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted by The Harris Poll between April 19 and 23.

While experts are quick to point out that downturns are a normal part of the economic cycle, you should still be prepared when one occurs.

“Of course, you want to focus on getting through the recession, and some will be able to do that more easily than others,” said certified financial planner Paul Deer, vice president at Personal Capital. “But across the board, you want to have a plan in place and stick to it.”

The odds of a recession vary, depending on whom you ask, with Goldman Sachs pegging it at a 30% probability within the next year and UBS standing by its base-case forecast of “no recession.” Meanwhile, Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood and Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel believe the U.S. is already in an economic downturn.

Recessions and peak unemployment rates since 1948
The Covid recession in 2020 only lasted two months, but it had the highest peak unemployment rate of any U.S. downturn since the end of World War II.


Whether a recession is near, or a bit further away, here’s what you can do to prepare.

1. Update your resume
The labor market has been hot for job seekers, but that will change if a recession hits.

“People have to prepare for less overall job security,” Deer said. “With employment being at all-time highs, naturally employment will decrease.”

So it’s smart to update your resume now so you are ready if there are layoffs.

Also, if you have considered going back to school to get an advanced degree or improving your work skills, now may be the time to do it, said CFP Diahann Lassus, managing principal at Peapack Private Wealth Management in New Providence, New Jersey.

“It improves your opportunities for employment in the future regardless of the type of economy,” she said.

2. Reduce expenses
Start to look at where you can cut back on spending, Lassus suggested. Think about where you want your budget to be for a worse-case scenario and a best-case scenario, she said.

“You have to think about the ‘what ifs,’” Lassus said. “What if my income goes down? What if my car breaks down? What if my rent goes up?” “Start looking at all of those interesting things you spend money on and try to find ways to reduce those expenses,” she added.

3. Bulk up your emergency fund

Most financial advisors recommend having enough savings to cover three to six months of living expenses. That could be worth revisiting depending on your specific circumstances. For instance, in this environment it can make sense to have more than six months, especially if you think you could have an issue with your job down the road, Lassus said.

However, it’s important not to get overwhelmed in thinking about reaching that target.

“Whatever they can put aside is going to help,” said Lassus, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

4. Pay down debt
If you are carrying any high-interest-rate debt, start focusing on paying it down, Deer recommends.

Not only will it help you be prepared if you lose your job, but rates are also expected to move higher in response to rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

The national average credit card rate rose above 17% for the first time in more than two years due to the Fed’s most recent increase, according to CreditCards.com. The central bank expects to continue to raise rates for the rest of the year.

5. Stay invested
Recent market volatility may have you considering cutting back on your 401(k) or getting out of the market. However, it’s important to keep your emotions in check and remember that you’re in it for the long term.

“You never want to make an investment decision when you panic or when you are really afraid,” Lassus said. “You have to try to step back from that, to make reasonable decisions.”

In fact, history shows that bull markets last longer than bear markets, Deer said.

“Economic growth is the long-term trend,” he added. “This is just a hiccup in that trend.”