Tips for a double-dip: preparing for a recession

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

    NEW YORK — With some experts predicting the economy is already slipping back into recession, now's the time to make sure you and your family are prepared to handle another downturn. “It's important to understand that recession doesn't mean a bad economy — we've had that for years now," said a recent report from the Economic Cycle Research Institute, which has called the last four recessions accurately. “It means an economy that keeps worsening, because it's locked into a vicious cycle." Families are already feeling the pain. Recent data show they're earning less and cutting back on spending. So how can a family that is already hunkered down prepare for even worse times? Start by assessing the health of your household finances and job security. Then lay out a plan to handle critical and long-term risks to each. Each family's response will be unique, reflecting its situation, said Patricia Seaman, senior director at the National Endowment for Financial Education. Those who fear their job is on the chopping block, for instance, may decide it's time to move into crisis mode on the financial front before the pink slip arrives. Those who are less concerned may decide now is the time to make themselves more indispensable at work. Here are some ideas for putting together your own plan: Finances Most of financial planner Chris Bixby's clients at Key Private Bank are more aware of their financial situations now than they were three years ago, and are more conscious to avoid overspending. But he said few have cut back as much as they could have — or perhaps should have. Now, he said, it's time for a financial reality check. In general, there are two ways to find savings when it comes to regular spending: trim the big expenses and eliminate the little ones. For instance, take a careful look at big bills such as your insurance policies, especially if they haven't been updated recently. Does your homeowner's policy reflect the current value of your house, or the bubble price? Are you paying several insurance companies and missing out on multiple policy discounts? Reworking your policies can save hundreds of dollars a year. Housing Mortgage rates are at an all-time low and refinancing could shave hundreds off your monthly payment. Even if your credit standing is less-than-stellar and you can't get the lowest possible rate, you still may be able to save with a new loan. Compare rates offered by several banks. Credit cards Annual fees are no longer rare and interest rates have climbed. Although it's best to pay off the balance each month to avoid interest charges, if you carry a balance make sure you're getting the best rate possible. Sometimes, a simple phone call to the bank that issued the card will result in a rate reduction because they want to keep your business, said NEFE's Seaman.