Gen X and Y: An Economic Remedy For You
If you’re under the age of 40, in terms of financial hard times, you remember that in 2000 the stock market went belly up.
And that’s probably it.
The dot-com bubble is your generation’s most memorable market snafu. Luckily, though, and thanks to not losing your cool, you managed to escape that time period relatively unscathed, managed to keep your job and actually buy a home, build a savings nest and let the good times roll.
While the current economic situation is more complex and far-reaching, this period, too, will pass. And if history repeats, there will be more prosperous times ahead for all of us. Now is not the time to retreat or panic, but rather, take advantage of the changes happening around you to secure your financial wealth and gear up for a grand-slam comeback.
Here's a checklist to help you deal with market anxiety:
1. Get Insured. This I steal from an earlier talk I had with the fabulous Jim Cramer on the biggest financial priorities for those under the age of 40. A lack of health care and disability insurance is a big reason folks are entering bankruptcy. Check out my entire video with him on how to personally survive the market mayhem. Check out an earlier story on how to find alternative health care.
2. Shore Up Cash. The biggest change we have to embrace is the enormous shift in our country’s banking sector. As banks aim to boost their liquidity, we need to follow suit by upping our cash reserves, as well. Visit my tips on how to save $100 a week here. (link to story on how to save $$100 a week)
3. Re-Evaluate Your 401(k). You have too much exposure to risky stocks in your portfolio. True, you have decades left until you retire, and you don’t need to be as concerned as your parents may be about their retirement savings, now’s a good time to sit down with a trusted financial advisor or to ask your smart uncle Bob to go over your 401(k) distribution. You may want to put a little more into fixed income assets, bonds or cash. Lots of great questions from readers on whether or not to withdraw early from the 401(k).
4. Educate Yourself About the Housing Market. House prices continue to fall dramatically. I get lots of questions these days about “is it a good time to buy?” The best route to take right now and for the next six months is to continue educating yourself about the market. Go to open houses, track prices, and speak with real estate agents. Prices will continue to fall and quickly there will be much more inventory from which to choose. Jim Cramer’s calling for a bottom in housing next summer. (link to his video/story on this NEED ). It's tempting to want to flip a home in this environment, but if you have the ability to save more money in the new year, I encourage you to do that rather than hastily get into a real estate deal.
5. Get to Know Your Neighbors. The Jones family next door, the couple who seemed to always have the best and newest, is now trading in their new car for a pre-owned model that’s costing them $200 less a month. Now there are some folks to keep up with! Talk to your neighbors about the economy and how they’re staying ahead. Perhaps there are ways you can share in some costs, like pot-lock dinners or baby-sitting. Bartering is your best friend.
6. Boost Your Skills and Network. Even though you may not have a job in the financial industry, it doesn’t mean your company won’t have to downsize this year. Good old-fashioned networking matters most right about now. There are free community courses to take advantage of, perhaps your company will pay for a nightly course or even a part-time MBA. Take advantage of that opportunity while it lasts. Consider freelancing on the weekends to make extra money and to bulk up the experience section of your resume. Make sure you continue to meet new people in your field who might offer career advice.
7. Pay Off Your Debt. Paying the minimum balance each month is a waste of your money and your financial future. Your credit card debt is the most critical variable in determining your credit worthiness and your credit score. Times like these you must dedicate as much as you can to your credit card debt. Why? Money is tight at banks. They’re only giving loans with the best rates to reputable borrowers with credit scores of at least 740, spotless credit reports and cash in the bank. Don’t fall behind. There are deals to be had in the housing and auto markets right now, so make sure you put yourself in the best position to seize these opportunities with the three C’s of financial freedom: Excellent Credit, a Stash of Cash and Commitment to Spending and Saving Wisely.
8. Sell Your Junk. Visit my story on Quick Ways to Make Cash – All Under Your Roof. Old books, jewelry, that old designer handbag that your mom gave you years ago from her closet: There’s probably a good $500 sitting around your house. Use any windfalls to pay down your debt.