Forget the instant news updates from the stock markets. Instead, find an older person to ask about surviving an economic crisis, suggests Texas AgriLife Extension Service personal money management expert Nancy Granovsky.
“I tell people to recall the stories of frugality you heard from your grandparents,” says Granovsky. “They have done a lot of belt tightening in their lives. They’ve gone through several down cycles. Find out the things they did to get through tough financial times.”
Granovsky says she worries about the panic-like reactions of people watching financial markets take a deep nose-dive, especially those who have never experienced a money crunch.
“There seems to be a lack of confidence right now, with many thinking that everything is going bad. I worry about people panicking and making the wrong decisions as a result,” she adds. “I really believe people do not need to be looking at the financial markets on a minute-to-minute basis right now.”
She points to the long-term history of the major financial markets – Dow, NASDAQ and S&P500 – and noted that recovery always follows decline.
“It feels like such a huge drop because we saw record highs a year ago,” Granovsky notes of the current financial market levels. “We may not know where the bottom will be yet, but there will be a recovery at some point.”
Granovsky suggests several tips for handling the economic woes.
– Make a budget. “People need to do some old-fashioned budgeting,” Granovsky says. “Everyone should know their financial situation, how much is owed and how much is spent each month. We may not be able to control what is going on in the economy, but we can manage our own spending, pay our bills on time and set realistic priorities.”
-Set aside money in an emergency fund. People need to have cash reserves, especially if credit card companies begin to lower one’s credit limit. “No matter how small the amount, putting some money aside will add up and come in handy in case of an emergency,” she says.
– Be careful about making sudden changes in your investment portfolio. While we are experiencing "paper losses" now, selling a stock or mutual fund that has declined in value locks in a real loss, she explains. Paper losses may make people nervous, but that doesn't mean a person has lost the number of shares owned. Stocks fluctuate in value during a volatile period, she added.
“If you have a cash to invest in stocks or mutual funds, consider buying ‘low’ in anticipation of higher future values,” Granovsky suggests. “We tend to buy things on sale at a department store, but run the other direction and panic when stocks fall.
“Stocks are on sale now,” she says, “and when recovery begins, their value will increase.”
– Know the financial institutions’ insurance per depositor. If a person has more than the insured amount at a bank or credit union, move a portion to another financial institution, she suggests.
– Take a walk or do some other physical activity to avoid listening to every piece of news about the stock markets. “That may help avoid panic,” she says, “because physical activity relieves stress and makes us feel better.”