The world may be in turmoil, but there are plenty of ways to protect your money. No matter what happens with the economy, you can create a plan that protects you from unexpected hits. Here’s how.
1. Be on the lookout for scammers
Scammers are everywhere, but even more so when times are tough. The following steps are quick and easy ways to stay on top of your finances, even if crooks try to part with your money:
- Do not click on attachments or links sent from unknown sources. Some crooks include viruses that scan your computer and send them everything they need, all without you even realizing that they have snooped around your computer.
- Never give out your social security number, driver’s license number, or other personal information. Even if someone calls pretending to be from your doctor’s office or the IRS, don’t fall for the old “We need your Social Security number to process this request” thing.
- Check your bank account daily. It takes less than a minute, but can help you spot anyone who might be withdrawing funds from your account without your knowledge.
- Check your credit card accounts at least once a month. Even if you don’t use them, check your accounts for changes. (It’s easy to get to online.) The trick is to research any activity that isn’t yours and report anything that you find suspicious.
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication for all online accounts. These steps can make it more difficult for someone to access your information.
- Pay attention to where you are when accessing financial accounts. Suppose you log into an account that has banking or credit card information on an unprotected wifi network or an unsecured device. You might leave yourself open to someone slipping your personal information.
2. Don’t fall into the debt trap
When things go wrong (as they are used to), the people with the least debt tend to have the easiest time moving to the other side. If a job loss, sudden illness, or a global pandemic could prevent you from paying your bills, part of the reason may be your level of debt. Decide which bills you want to drop and follow a basic debt repayment plan until the debt is nothing but a positive payment history on your credit report.
While you are in the planning phase, make sure you have enough funds in an emergency savings account to cover three to six months of bills.
3. Keep a cool head no matter what’s going on with the stock market
Trying to figure out what will happen next with the stock market is like trying to figure out how long a rodeo cowboy will be on the back of a bucking bronco. There may be signs that things are about to go wrong, but you can never know when it’s going to happen.
Could the Stock Market Dive Deep? Almost certainly. The stock market acts a bit like a roller coaster, with periods of bullish movement followed by expected lows. Emptying stocks from your brokerage account while the market is going down may seem like the right thing to do, but it can cost you thousands of dollars. If we stick to the roller coaster metaphor, when your car approaches the bottom of the track, you can make investments cheaply. Selling investments when values fall allows other investors to recover them at low cost. And just as cars on a roller coaster turn a corner and start to climb again after a steep drop, so does the stock market.
Let’s look at what happens after a big event, like a recession. Depending on who you ask, there have been as many as 48 recessions in the United States since 1776. (Some economists dispute a few.) Nonetheless, we have a pretty good track record that we can learn from. Historically, diversified portfolios have rebounded every time, finding themselves in a better position than they started.
That said, if you’re too close to retirement to take a long-term approach to investing, waiting several years to recoup losses isn’t for you. (We’ll discuss this in more detail in a moment.) For the rest of the world, investing should be a long game. Plan to leave your money alone for at least seven years. Looking at the history of the market, it is easy to see that it was those who stuck to it who enjoyed the gains.
4. Seek professional advice
A good financial advisor can be worth its weight in gold. They help fill in knowledge gaps, tell you when it’s time to worry, and help you stay the course. And, if you are one of those planning to retire soon, they will help you invest in a way that protects your investments.
There are, without a doubt, things that you are good at. If personal finances aren’t one of them, that’s okay. A good financial advisor can help you determine what’s best for your situation and give you confidence throughout the process.
The main point to remember is that you need to keep a cool head and a practical perspective when it comes to your finances. Just like in life, money matters won’t always be rosy and trouble-free. But if you take steps to protect your savings, you should be able to overcome any problems without worry.
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