Inflation is still soaring, interest rates are rising, and a recession is looming. Whether or not a downturn actually happens in 2023, most women are bracing for it. That’s according to a new Alliance for Lifetime Income and HerMoney survey, which found two-thirds (68%) of respondents say a contraction in the economy is inevitable. Even so, 92% of women polled say they plan to double down on their retirement savings. Why?
“Despite believing a recession is on the horizon, women aren’t letting that interfere with their long-term financial goals,” said Jean Chatzky, Alliance for Lifetime Income Fellow and HerMoney CEO.
But how, exactly, do we do this, in an environment marked by fear, uncertainty and dread? Should we play it safe and move all our money into cash and bonds? Or take on more risk and chase growth? Two-thirds of the women in the survey said they plan to do exactly that. They are doubling down on their investments and adopting a now-is-the-time-to-buy mindset.
Granted, exactly how to play this market (or any market) is uniquely individual, but there are recession-proofing investing moves that can help. Here’s a look at four that women are making today.
MAKE SURE YOUR EMERGENCY STASH IS BACK TO WHERE IT WAS PRE-PANDEMIC (OR EVEN HEALTHIER)
There’s a lot to worry about during a recession. Your investment portfolio may take a hit, or you could be subject to a salary freeze or a layoff. That’s why building a proper emergency fund tops the list of recession-proof investment moves, for any economy. “The number one role for your emergency savings is to ensure you don’t have to dip into your retirement,” says retirement expert Anne Lester. “If you get laid off or in some other crisis you have to recession proof your retirement and step one is making sure you’ve got a robust emergency savings.” Lester says the aim should be to have six months’ worth of your living expenses covered in emergency savings. That will prevent you from taking money out of your investment account or 401(k) to survive the hit.
Now is also the time to think about ways you can reduce your spending in the event that your monthly income takes a hit. “If you do have to cut back, have a game plan ready to go,” says Lester.
ALIGN INVESTMENTS WITH YOUR RISK TOLERANCE, TIME HORIZON
The markets have undergone a lot of change this year, and that’s putting it mildly. What started out with a thunder is ending in a rout with the S&P 500 down more than 17% and the Dow Jones Industrial off nearly 8%. Essentially, many investments that used to “work” are no longer doing their jobs when it comes to earning the kind of return we need to secure a healthy retirement. That’s why it’s important to assess your investment portfolio to ensure it’s aligned with your risk tolerance and time horizon. It’s not the time to get too conservative if you have 20 plus years left to save. “If you’re 20 or 30 years away, keep rebalancing and investing. We’ve seen this before, and will see it again,” says Lester. Now is a great time to make sure your asset allocation hasn’t gotten thrown off by the recent sell off in the stock market. If you are overweight in one area, you can rebalance to realign. And if you have extra cash, now may be a good time to add to your equity positions. Many stocks are battered and bruised, and may be trading near lows.
But if retirement is in the rearview mirror, you might want to add more protection to the mix. At this point, much of your focus should be on preserving your savings and generating income that you can count on in retirement. “Women have told us time and time again that they prioritize saving and have peace of mind knowing when they know they have enough protected income to last throughout retirement,” says Jean Statler, CEO of the Alliance for Lifetime Income.
CONSIDER SOME BOND EXPOSURE
Bonds are having a moment after years in the doldrums, and they have the Federal Reserve to thank. The Fed has been raising interest rates all year to slow inflation, which means the return on bonds, CDS and savings is improving. This comes after years of record low interest rates. “Frankly, higher interest rates aren’t all bad news; bond investors get real coupons,” says Lester. “For older people or more conservative people, suddenly they are earning a lot more in interest.”
KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK
The markets go up, and they go down. It pays to remind yourself of that (perhaps often) during scary times. So, take a deep breath and acknowledge that now is probably not the best time to sell all your stocks and/or stash your money in a savings account. Once you’re out of the market, it’s much harder to get back in, plus you lose out on compound interest, which occurs when your investments’ interest earns interest. It’s so much better to sit tight and wait it out, even if you don’t like what you see when you check your balances. “The markets can go down violently, but they often come back up again pretty quickly,” says Lester, who thinks things will improve in a year from now. “If you’re already taking a bath, it’s not necessary to go making crazy shifts because you probably bore the brunt of it already.”
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