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Ask Chuck: How do I recession proof our finances?

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

If we’re headed towards an economic downturn, how can I recession-proof our finances?

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Recession Proofing 

 iStock / Getty Images Plus/ seamartini
iStock / Getty Images Plus/ seamartini

Dear Recession Proofing,  

Many economists believe we are headed toward major economic challenges. Consider just three reasons:

Seventy-eight percent of Americans are worried about losing their job if we are indeed entering a recession, says Insight Global’s recent survey. 56% of American workers say they are not financially prepared or “don’t know how to prepare” for a recession.

The reality is that recessions are a normal part of economic cycles, and we should always be prepared for them. For basic information, see Investopedia’s Guide to Economic Recession.  There is a big difference between recession-proofing your finances and your career; however, since they are interrelated, let’s talk about both.

Recognize any "signs of trouble" with your employer

  • Layoffs or people leaving on their own.
  • Cut-backs in hiring and spending.
  • Wage freezes.
  • Sell-offs.
  • Inventory build-up.
  • Projects put on hold.

Even if you see yellow or red flags, don’t leave a job until you have another in place, unless you are aware of illegal activity.

Consider recession-proof industries

Laurence Ball, economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Karen Dynan, economics professor at Harvard and former chief economist at the U.S. Treasury, say the following four industries offer strong job security during economic downturns:

  • Health care
  • Government
  • Computers and information technology
  • Education

Julie Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, says the following jobs are recession-proof:

  • Nurses
  • Mental health counselors
  • Child-care workers
  • Police/Sheriff’s patrol officers
  • Court, municipal, and license clerks

Each of these occupations added tens of thousands of jobs during the 2009 and 2001 recessions, according to data from Zip Recruiter and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs that depend on consumer spending will be most threatened because people cut back on services not necessary to maintain a basic standard of living. Think retail, restaurants, hotels, and even real estate.

Upgrade your career options

Now is a great time to update and learn new skills. Upon certification or completing any courses, update your resume. Consider how these skills can help you in your present career or future job search:

  • Project management
  • Coding, AI, and machine learning
  • Computer skills
  • Occupation-specific training
  • Soft skills: communication, leadership, teamwork
  • Social media
  • Videography
  • Building logistic websites
  • 3D CAD modeling

If your company is doing well during a recession, approach your boss about internal training opportunities to improve your job skills or job security. Ask what training would further your career. The company may be willing to sponsor you. Check out free options on YouTube, TED Talks, and virtual lectures or workshops, or source ideas through LinkedIn profiles of successful people in your industry. Coursera is popular for many busy people because lectures are 10 minutes or less and can be done on a mobile device.

Recession-proof your finances

Having a job or business that is not disrupted by a recession is a great blessing; however, there is more to “recession proofing” that needs to happen with your finances. Consider some of the following:

  • Improve your savings to extend the amount of time you can weather an economic downturn
  • Diversify your income; pick up a side job or start something on your own
  • Track your income and expenses more carefully; make a financial plan (budget)
  • Reduce your variable expenses
  • Build your emergency fund
  • Pay down high interest-bearing debt
  • Do not complain, panic, or make impulsive moves
  • Pray, give thanks, and seek wise counsel
  • Work with diligence as unto the Lord

Do not fear the future

We all have a natural tendency to fear the future since we cannot know what tomorrow holds. Our mind creates many scenarios that will likely never happen. God’s Word reminds us to avoid this trap, which is akin to expending energy in a rocking chair but making no forward progress. Instead, trust the Lord, make a plan, take action, and be grateful for what He provides regardless!

“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil”(Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

While seeking the Lord’s guidance, another way to prepare for a recession is to reduce or eliminate credit card debt. Christian Credit Counselors is a trusted source of help toward financial freedom.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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