The Great Recession may be on a downhill slide, but we’re nowhere near the end. Everyone has heard horror stories of people nearing retirement who were forced to helplessly stand by and watch their 401k accounts plummet in a matter of months. Others saw mutual funds and other investment accounts bottom out as well.
These are scary times, and emerging from the recession with your investments intact is one of the highest financial priorities for American families today. Here are some ways to survive the recession without losing your shirt.
Diversify, Diversify, Diversify
Can’t say it enough. You’ve likely heard the expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” many times in the past, I’m sure. Financial advisors spout the old adage in droves, and for good reason. Diversifying your investments has always been sound financial advice, but the recession has transformed the idea from a recommendation to a necessity.
To come out of the most historic economic downturn since the Great Depression with your money intact, it’s imperative to mix up your investment vehicles. Think real estate, savings, CDs, bonds, mutual funds, and retirement accounts. Spread the love and you’ll weather the storm far more effectively than your “sink everything into the old IRA” counterparts.
Stick to the Right Stocks
If you’re still investing in the stock market during these trying times, that’s okay. Many people are avoiding investing in stocks altogether, and this strategy isn’t necessarily a great one. You can still invest in stocks during a recession; you simply need to ensure you’re picking the right companies.
Although no stock is 100% safe, there are some companies in which it’s just safer to invest your money in during a recessionary period. Stick to massive, established companies that have lengthy business histories. When you adopt this strategy, you’re essentially picking brands that have the goods to withstand long stints of market weakness.
Some characteristics to look for in the companies you’re considering include those that have strong balance sheets, strong cash flow, and only a small amount of debt. Established companies with strong cash flows are the safest stock picks during a downturn because they have a greater chance of riding out the storm until it passes and emerge stronger than ever.
Protect Your 401k
Taking some smart, defensive action is a great way to protect your retirement account from getting whacked when another recession rolls around. One personal finance blogger over at Money Green Life saw his 401k suffer a 50% loss in 2008, when the market took a 45% nosedive. He was determined not to make the same mistake twice, and in 2011, when the S&P 500 was down 8%, his 401k was enjoying a 0.1% gain for the year.
How did he do it?
First, he taught himself more about his 401k and the investments that comprised it. He shifted all his money into the money market fund, which, as he points out, is essentially 100% cash. His plan was to ride out the recession by sitting on the sidelines until the storm passed and reinvest his funds accordingly when things were stable once again. While this strategy may not work for everyone, it’s a testament to educating yourself, even just a little, about your investments. That, in itself, is the single best way to protect them from a recession.