Solidify your financial plan in case the trade war starts a recession

Personal Finance


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Recession is probably a word you haven’t heard in a while, at least not in the present tense.

Yet economic experts fret that one could be coming. And how fast that becomes a reality depends in part on U.S. trade negotiations with China.

A global recession could happen in as soon as nine months, Morgan Stanley chief economist Chetan Ahya said Monday, if the U.S. trade war with China escalates.

Warnings about increased chances for a downturn are not new. In June, the National Association for Business Economics said in its outlook survey that recession risks will “rise rapidly” in 2020.

If those predictions make your stomach sink, now is the time to come up with a plan to make sure you can weather a pullback in the economy.

Assess where you are

The first thing you want to do is take a look at what you’re really spending, said Diahann Lassus, president and chief investment officer at Lassus Wherley, a subsidiary of Peapack-Gladstone Bank in New Providence, New Jersey.

If your credit card bills are out of control, it’s time to rein in that spending, she said. That means curbing unnecessary discretionary expenses, such as dinners out.

Also, take stock of where you are with your cash flow. If your job feels shaky, now is the time to refresh your resume before a job loss.

“Don’t wait until it happens,” Lassus said. “Think about what you would do.”

Build up your cash reserves

Many advise that a cash emergency fund should be at least three to six months’ worth of expenses.

But these days, financial advisor Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York, said he is advising clients to have six to 12 months’ set aside because of various risks including political uncertainties.

“When things are scary, people can feel less worried when they have a decent cushion,” Boneparth said.

Ideally, you want to put those emergency reserves in accounts, such as a high yield savings or money market, where you will be able to access them if you need them.

That is something to keep in mind as you also direct money to retirement or 529 college savings plans, which are less liquid.

“This is not to be confused with lowering your savings rate,” Boneparth said. “This is just the allocation of what you’re saving.”

Re-evaluate your priorities

Financial advisor Winnie Sun, founder of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California, said her meetings with clients now have one key theme: stop, drop and reassess.

That doesn’t mean abandoning your goals entirely. But it does mean making changes to how you address those priorities.

For a client who is transitioning to retirement, that may entail looking at long-term-care coverage in case their portfolio might not generate as much income to cover their health-care costs, Sun said.

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For others who are in their 20s and just getting started, that means investing more toward their long-term goals when the market is down.

Generally, you want to avoid moves that involve taking on more debt now, Sun said. And if you’re still uncertain, get a second opinion from a financial advisor, she said.

“We’ve forgotten, because the market has been good for us for so long,” Sun said. “In 2008-2009, it paid to be conservative.”



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