Preparing for the next recession

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Half of Americans say that they are concerned a major recession is looming around the corner, according to several recent surveys. Nonetheless, few say they are financially prepared to weather a downturn.

Recession worries have risen 4 percentage points since the first quarter of the year, according to the Allianz Quarterly Market Perceptions Study.1 A September Gallup poll found that recession expectations are now even higher than just before the 2007 recession.2


Younger Americans are the most likely to expect a recession to be coming soon. 56% of Millennials expect a recession in the next year, compared to 51 percent of Generation X and 46 percent of boomers.3 


Trade tensions, volatile financial markets, inverting yield curves, and the unusual duration of the current expansion are compounding economic worries. Americans are also hearing a growing chorus of recession concerns from economists. A survey released from the National Associate for Business Economics found that 80 percent of economists think that the economy will slow further. Twenty-four percent think that a recession will start by mid-2020, and 69 percent think one will begin by mid-2021.

Despite a high level of anxiety about coming economic storms, few have sufficiently prepared. For some, the 2008 Great Recession was a wake-up call to save, invest, and prepare for the worst. For others, bad habits have been hard to break. Over a quarter of Americans say they haven't changed any behaviors since the Great Recession in 2008. Moreover, many are still recovering from the impact of the Great Recession. 36% say they used most or all of their savings to weather the Great Recession, 33% had to change college plans for themselves or their children, and 18% have had to support a struggling family member after 2008.3


To prepare for the next economic downturn, there are several precautionary steps to consider. Building an emergency cash reserve can help households cover expenses in case of job loss or reduced income. Today, 43% say that they're living paycheck to paycheck, and only a third (32%) of Americans say they have enough savings to cover more than six months without income. 43% said that they're living paycheck to paycheck. For those who struggle to save, automatic contributions to a savings account can be an efficient way to amass an emergency fund. Now is also a good time to pay down high-interest debt, like credit card balances, which can become a serious burden in a recession. Opening a home equity line of credit now while it is easier to secure financing can also serve as a useful backup if times turn tough. This may also be a good time to review your investment portfolio to optimize for changing economic conditions.


It's like living in an area that's prone to hurricanes, says Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. "You know it's likely there will be another hurricane at some point and, if you're smart, you don't wait until it's two days away to stock up on batteries, water and plywood," he says. "You have to be ready in advance."4

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1.  Allianz Quarterly Market Perceptions Study, October 2019

2. Gallup, Economic Confidence Drops to Lowest Level Since Shutdown, September 2019

3. Business Insider, Half of Americans think a recession is coming in the next year — and they admit they're unprepared, September 2019

4. Newsweek, How to survive a recession, October 2019

This publication is designed to provide general information and is for discussion purposes only. The effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon each individual’s facts and circumstances. This article does not provide legal, tax or account advice. Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error, the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information is not guaranteed.