Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned Congress about a recession if the government doesn't intervene. But what's in a name? The economy keeps shedding jobs, the credit markets are seizing up and the stock market keeps heading south despite brief, half-hearted rallies. Even if we haven't had two consecutive quarters of contracting GDP -- the definition of a recession -- the economy is acting like it's in a recession. Here are a few things you can do to make it through to the other side.
That is easier said than done when the Dow dropped 777 points on Monday, and the S&P 500 is down about 20% since the start of the year. But as bad as things might look right now, the economy typically recovers from such deep declines. Unless you need investment money to cover short-term expenses like medical bills or mortgage payments, your best bet is to ride out the downturn. Try turning off the scrolling stock ticker on your homepage and tune out the background noise. When you are investing for the long term, short-term ups and downs can only cause you stress.Keep investing
It can be hard to keep investing in your 401(k) or IRA when you open your quarterly statement and see lots of red ink. Try changing your frame of reference: Think of your regular contributions to these accounts as buying shares rather than investing money. Even if the market continues to slide over the next few months, when the recovery comes, the shares that you buy now will end up being worth much more.
Timing the market is next to impossible, even for the experts. If you stuff your cash under your mattress rather than continuing to invest in retirement plans, you risk missing the rebound and short-changing your long-term retirement goals.
As much as you need to tune out the hysteria on Wall Street, you may want to make sure you are set up appropriately to weather the storm. When was the last time you rebalanced your investment portfolio? If the answer is more than a year, check in on your asset allocation to make sure your portfolio still reflects your long-term investing goals. Consider meeting with a financial adviser to make sure you've covered all the bases. To find a fee-based adviser near you, check out the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.