Some say a recession is looming, some say it’s already here, and some predict a recession won’t happen at all. So, what should we be doing differently when it comes to finances? We talked to some experts to get the scoop on the four financial priorities you should not cut during a recession or during high inflationary times.
DON’T STOP CONTRIBUTING TO YOUR RETIREMENT ACCOUNT
As Brittany Kline, Co-Owner of The Savvy Couple, says, “When money gets tight, it’s natural to want to reduce expenses and pull back on investments.” However, she advises that you keep contributing to your retirement account during a recession, “even if it means cutting back on other expenses.”
Ashley Tran, Assistant Branch Manager, Fidelity Investments, agrees. “At Fidelity, we recommend aiming to save at least 15% of your pre-tax income each year for retirement, including any employer match.”
But Tran and Kline both acknowledge that if the budget is just too tight right now, sometimes this level of contribution just isn’t possible. In that case, Tran recommends, “Even if you can’t afford right now to contribute the full amount given your current situation, keep in mind that even small contributions made regularly can make a big difference in the long run.”
Kline adds once your financial situation changes and you’re able to bump up your contributions again, do so as soon as you can.
DON’T STOP PAYING CREDIT CARD BILLS
“Whatever you do, don’t stop paying your credit cards. It will impact your credit score and make it harder to get credit cards in the future,” cautions Kline. Tran agrees, adding “Credit cards typically charge higher rates than other types of debt so it’s a good strategy to consider reducing credit card debt before paying off other loans like a car or mortgage.”
If you find yourself strapped for cash when your credit card bill is due, Tran suggests using cash rewards toward your minimum payment, if you have them. She also advises pinpointing “spots in your monthly spending where you can cut back and put that toward your minimum each month – just a little bit can certainly help!”
Kline explains, “Making the minimum payment on your credit card is important so you don’t get penalized with late fees, and it will help keep your credit score up. However, you don’t want only to make the minimum payment each month because that will take forever to pay off your debt.” If you’re struggling with your credit card payment, she suggests calling your credit card company to see if they’ll offer you a lower interest rate—though there’s no guarantee it’ll happen.
DON’T STOP MAKING LOAN PAYMENTS
Both experts stress the importance of making on-time payments on any loans you might have. If you’re worried about being able to make the minimum payments when times are tough, you have some options.
Kline advises that you call your lender right away if you can’t make a payment, because you could incur penalties or even higher interest rates if you miss payments. “Some lenders may be willing to work with borrowers to create a payment plan that works for everyone involved,” she says. If your lender isn’t willing to work with you on reducing payments or offering other help, Kline suggests looking at ways to bring in more income, such as getting a part-time job, selling items you own, or asking for a loan from family or friends.
You could consider refinancing in some cases, such as for your mortgage. “Refinancing involves creating a new loan out of one or more existing loans and you may be able to get better terms by doing so,” Tran explains. Be aware this could mean you pay more money stretched out over a longer period of time. She advises consulting an expert if you think refinancing might be for you.
DON’T STOP ADDING TO YOUR EMERGENCY SAVINGS
Tran and Kline agree that having three to six months’ worth of expenses saved up is a good goal, but they also realize that can be challenging. Kline recommends you determine “how much money your emergency fund needs.” Tran adds you should factor in things like rent, mortgage, utility bills, food, loans, and the like.
To ensure you’re socking away cash for emergencies, Kline suggests starting small: “Even if you can only afford to put $10 per week into the account, that’s $40 per month, which can add up over time.” Tran also recommends stashing away any extra funds into your emergency savings account. She notes, “This can include cash gifts or cash back from credit cards or cash back services. Depending on how much you charge or spend, that can really add up.” Plus, if you get a raise or even a tax refund, it’s a good idea to put those right into your emergency account.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR FINANCES
One major no-no: ignoring your finances. In addition to your retirement contributions, debt payments, and emergency savings fund, you may want to take a look at other ways you could cut expenses. “One quick way to cut back on costs is reviewing streaming services, monthly subscriptions and memberships…Getting rid of some of these non-essential expenses can help you save cash over time,” Tran explains.
And to help you stay on track with your financial goals, she recommends looking into Fidelity Bloom to help you mindfully examine your finances or Fidelity Spire, an app focused on helping younger adults reach financial goals.
Kline suggests getting on board with a budget planner or a tool that helps manage your money. She recommends YouNeedABudget (YNAB), a budgeting tool, or Personal Capital, which can track your overall worth along with how you’re doing on retirement goals. She notes, “Both tools are free to use and can help you stay on top of your finances during tough times.”
STAYING ON TRACK FINANCIALLY IN A RECESSION
Finding ways to stay on track with your financial goals is crucial, even when money is tight. Going through a recession or periods of high inflation can be rough, but it’s possible to stay financially savvy even in these times. Staying mindful of financial priorities that should not be cut, such as investing, saving, making loan payments on time, and staying on top of your financial health, will have you on your way to weathering the ups and downs of the economy.
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