I think it should be stressed that the United States goes into a recession every 10 years or so. For an average working family the message of a coming recession is: 'Save as much as possible for the inevitable rainy day.'
To recession-proof your life take the following steps today.
1. Don't panic. See the silver lining. With panic comes fear, and no good decisions get made from fear. Understand that recessions are totally natural and a normal part of our cyclic economy. We just don't remember the last time because we've been living in a booming economy for several years. Remember, the economy always recovers. So keep a positive perspective. If anything, a recession affords you a good opportunity to stop and take a deep breath. You may have been living too close to the edge before and spending way beyond your means. Now it's time to re-boot your life.
2. Be modest about money. This can be hard to do because we tend to be better spenders than savers. But when the economy stumbles, you have to begin living at least within your means —and hopefully below — or you may be forced to later on. If you get a tax rebate this year as part of the "stimulus package," don't rush out to spend all of it.
See if you can save most of it, Just spend a little bit on something you truly need. Like I say, live below your means because it means you won't go broke. This is one of my mantras—whether the economy is booming or not. It will train you to save more and make more money than you ever imagined in the long term.
3. Revisit your resume. We all get lazy when we're in a comfy job. But you would do well to keep your resumes fresh and up to date so if an opportunity emerges to change jobs, or if you are among those in an industry that downshifts during a recession and layoffs begin, you will have that resume polished and ready to go. Again, don't panic. If you lose your job, understand that there are always jobs out there—even in a recession.
4. Look for deals, but watch out for snakes. Even though there may be a mild "recession" on the horizon, there are ways to make money no matter what. Someone is always buying something online (ahem, eBay). A bull is always lurking in the stock market. Recession-proof industries include pharmaceuticals and household goods giants like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, and McDonalds. And when stocks plummet that means you can find good deals. Today's high-interest rates on savings accounts also mean you can sock away money and watch it grow effortlessly. Looking to buy a home? It's a buyer's market now, so if you've been waiting to get into the real estate market and if you plan to stay put for at least 5 years, this might be your ideal time to buy. But watch out: troubled times call out the snake oil salesmen. Be brutally cautious about investing in any business or person. Scams and get-rich-quick schemes run rampant during recessions.
5. Stay focused. Don't pretend that your debts and responsibilities are not there just because "everyone is in debt" or "the economy is bad." A "recession" doesn't give you permission to lose sense and sensibility. Stay focused on continuing to pay down your debts, and keeping your wallet "fit." Get real about where you stand financially if you're having a hard time keeping up with your bills, such as your mortgage payment. Seek help before you slip down a slippery slope. You'd be surprised by how much your creditors and lenders may cut you some slack if you talk to then now, rather than later.
Farrah Gray is the author of "Get Real, Get Rich: Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You from Success" and the "Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out". He is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. www.drfarrahgray.com