Recessions are out of our immediate control and though it seems unfair, there's still no Sims-esque hack for multiplying our money (we'll let you know as soon as we find one). The good news is that they’re part of the normal economic cycle. Unfortunately, we can’t cancel 2020 (though we can reset it). We can dance in the flames of this dumpster fire of a year once we tackle how to prepare for a recession by optimizing our financial support system. Luckily for you, Cleo’s got some hacks and has your back.
WHAT IS A RECESSION?
While tricky to quantify, economists generally define a recession as at least two consecutive quarters of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) trending negatively. Look at you getting a refresher on all these fancy terms that you definitely snoozed through paid attention to in economics class. COVID-19 has America’s cash flow looking like a student’s bank account with the stability of Kanye West’s Twitter feed. It’s bleak, but it’s always changing and you’re going to put your best foot forward.
DOES YOUR WORK, WORK?
Since COVID-19, over 36.5 million Americans have been made unemployed. Turns out that Rihanna song can be pretty painful to listen to. In market recessions, not every job is sustainable, and any of the business's non-essentials are first to go. (Unlike our takeout habit, which you could say helps keep our favorite restaurants in business. You’re winning on the technicalities.)
Start preparing for a hit by strengthening your standing (recession or no recession):
- Build on what you have: expand your skill set by utilizing free online tutorials and/or grow your LinkedIn network so that you’re always on a load of people’s radar. Smart, capable AND prepared? You triple threat.
- Start a side hustle: whether it’s a passion project or purely practical, extra money can come in from things like babysitting, cooking for delivery and running errands. Sell stuff you don’t need. Marie Kondo the shit out of your possessions. (Does money bring you joy? YES.) By having multiple sources of income, if one takes a hit you have the other to help bankroll you so that you can still treat yourself a little bit, and at the very worst still get the hell by.
REEL IT IN A LITTLE
Philz Coffee is great, but do you need two every Friday? 70% of Americans have banking apps to keep track of their spending. Being aware of how much is in your account is great, but if you’re not managing or budgeting too, then the 'keeping track' part is probably going to look like you squinting with sweaty palms as your bank balance screen loads.
The toughest truth to face head on can be determining our wants versus our needs. By consistently asking yourself whether or not a purchase is essential, you’ll be a self-serving machine, able to fund your needs without the stress sweat and sleepless nights. Well, money ones at least. It is 2020.
(Clears throat) Cleo will give you personalized updates, advice on spending reactive to how you feel about certain purchases, automatically put a little money aside when you spend somewhere you’ve said you don’t want to AND roast you for going to McDonald's five times in one week.
She’ll also always hype you for getting by and/or thriving, she wants you to succeed.
FACE IT WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
When we’re dealing with something pretty out of control, the way we approach it is the one thing we've got power over.
Like most things in life, the economy is cyclical and historically for every downturn there’s an uptick to look forward to. Warren Buffet is the man when it comes to long-term thinking, and it shows. How can you feel cool, calm and collected?
- Take a deep breath. This is temporary. You are absolutely not alone.
- Taking the tiniest steps to prepare for— and face— a recession will give you a much-needed sense of control. (Shout out to your mental health).
- Don’t leave self-care on the back burner if you’re able. Hydrate. Feed yourself. Move your body. Get some rest. Watch as many cat videos as you want. Love yourself at least a 10th of the amount that Kanye loves Kanye.
BUILD THAT EMERGENCY FUND
If you’re feeling anxious about money right now, you’re not alone. 3 in 10 American adults don’t have a spare $1,000 to cover an unexpected emergency. Set a goal to have enough cash stashed away to get you through a few months’ living expenses. Ideally, three to six months is the sweet spot. If that feels intimidating, no worries. Start with a smaller goal, and be sure to reward yourself when you get there.
Here’s how to get some savings started whenever you have a little to roll with:
- Funnel small (can be small small, like teeny tiny small, whatever you can manage) into a savings account each month consistently.
- Find a savings account with a high interest rate.
- Find a savings account with no penalties or restrictions.
PLAY THE CREDIT SCORE GAME
35% of your credit score is your payment history. This may come as great news to some of you – just because the world’s on it’s a** right now, doesn’t mean your score or your future wealth has to suffer.
The way your credit score is calculated may not feel like a whole load of sensible, but it matters. A good credit score opens all kinds of doors to when it comes to borrowing money, including lower interest rates and penalties. This also means that your hard-earned cash will go further. Those interest rates and extra fees can get you hard. Whether you’re balling out on a Range Rover or scouring the web for anything that won’t break down on you in that sketchy area of town will likely be decided (at least partially) by your credit score.
Tired of your cramped apartment and roommate that you know eats your Nutella and has a funky smell you’ve never quite been able to put your finger on? Ew. Working on your credit could literally open the door to a nicer, roommate-free place – or even a mortgage.
An added bonus to leveling up your credit game is seeing an overall reduction in both your short and long-term costs on the “needs” in your life. What do you win? An easier, less costly path to reaching your short and long-term goals… and more pizza. Always more pizza.
Here's how to play:
- Get a credit card, keep the balance real low, and pay it off regularly. Make your payments early when possible.
- Not everyone can do anything other than paying the bills at the moment, but luckily another best practice is to pay your bills on time in full. If you’re in the weeds, communication is key. Call to see what options you may have. If your job has been impacted by Coronavirus (among other life situations/setbacks) you may be able to avoid fees and penalties. You don’t know unless you ask. This stuff matters.
- If you have a high-interest loan that you’ve been consistently paying on time— refinance it when you can. This could lower your interest rate, monthly payments and the overall amount interest that you pay over the lifetime of the loan.
Now fly high, you recession-proof financial warrior! We want to help you through this – got any questions? Sign up here to get Cleo's help.