Back when I was studying business in college, I remember being slightly disturbed by stories of those who profited during periods of economic crisis. Being a Sensitive Sally, I could not imagine making money hand over fist while those around me suffered. For example, following the 1929 stock market crash, a guy named Charles Darrow (who was struggling to pay bills) developed the game of Monopoly. Once Darrow realized how much his friends enjoyed the game, he began selling them for $4 apiece. The game was so popular that Parker Brothers bought it, paid Darrow royalties, and the rest is history.
And then there’s Warren Buffett, who viewed the Great Recession of ’07-’09 as a great opportunity to buy up discounted stocks. While investors ran away from the market as though they were escaping a house fire, Buffett ran toward the flames. By 2013, Buffett made at least $10 billion from the financial crisis.
It may come as no surprise that I’ve developed a very different view of those who manage to make money when everyone else is lucky to get by. There’s nothing mercenary about coming up with a plan to profit — even when everything appears to have gone south.
Here are some ways you can make the next recession work for you.
Stay the course
One of the first things you’ll hear as the next recession approaches is how many people have sold off their investments and moved their money somewhere guaranteed to be 100% safe. Emotionally, this move makes sense. Who doesn’t want to protect their hard-earned money?
Unfortunately, the practice is short-sighted.
There’s a phrase in finance called “dollar-cost averaging.” In a nutshell, dollar-cost averaging means investing a fixed dollar amount on a regular basis, no matter what’s going on in the market. Let’s say a person invests $100 a month in Target. Whether Target stock is selling for $125 per share or $50 a share, they invest the same $100.
When Target stock is going for $125 per share, their $100 won’t go far. However, when the market is down and the value of Target stock drops, their $100 buys more. Over time, they’ll end up with far more than they would have if they’d left the market as values began to drop. Over time, dollar-cost averaging may also lower their average cost per share.
For you, it’s about deciding how much you’re going to invest in your future each month, and sticking with that plan no matter what.
Sell things other people need
According to the 2022 OfferUp Recommerce Report, 82% of Americans buy or sell second-hand items. And it’s not just clothing. A whopping 76% of the pre-owned goods purchased are from product categories like electronics, home goods, sporting and outdoor equipment, auto parts, furniture, and home improvement.
Even people who aren’t normally thrifty look for ways to save money during a recession. Take the opportunity to offer anything you no longer need or use for sale. Whether it’s a room full of baby equipment, home decor, or auto parts, selling allows you to clean your house and make money you can stash in your savings account.
Buy a business
A recession can be a good time to buy a business. Business owners don’t always have enough money put aside to stay afloat when sales lag, or they may own several small businesses and are anxious to lighten the load.
Naturally, you’ll need to take a deep dive into the financial records and daily operations of a business before making an offer. And if you’re not an experienced business owner, you’ll need the help of a neutral third party who is experienced in business valuation to walk you through the pros and cons of the business.
Keep your eye on layoffs
Finally, keep an eye out for which companies are laying off employees during the next recession. According to research published in Harvard Business Review, the companies that emerged from the Great Recession in the best shape were those that relied less on layoffs to cut company costs. Instead, they focused on operational improvements and innovative ways to retain employees.
Those are the companies you may want to invest in. And it’s not just because they did right by their employees (which is a huge bonus), but also because leadership was savvy enough to save jobs while strengthening business practices.
One thing we all should do, whether we’re concerned about a recession or not, is build an emergency savings account with enough money in it to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. That way, we have a financial cushion to fall back on when money gets tight.
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