The U.S. economy could slip into a recession at any time, so creating a crash-resilient retirement is more important than ever.
That thought terrifies most investors. Rule #1 investors, though, know that a recession is a golden opportunity to purchase great companies at bargain prices.
As a savvy investor, you should prepare yourself now by thinking about what you will do with your retirement accounts during a recession.
The following advice will help you get ready to take advantage of the unique opportunities a recession presents.
Should You Lower Your Contribution to Your 401(k)?
Any time — recession or not — is a good time to lower your contribution to your 401(k) if you are contributing more than your employer matches.
401(k)s charge high fees for administration and management, which eat into your nest egg. They over-diversify, which limits the potential growth of your portfolio.
Also, they take away your freedom of choice. 401(k)s typically restrict your options to ETFs, mutual funds, and money market accounts.
You miss out on the opportunity to choose investments that will be far more profitable as well as more rewarding. When you direct your own investing, you get to choose companies that share your values, instead of investing in whatever limited choices you happen to have available in your 401(k).
Despite popular belief, 401(k)s aren’t so safe either. They shadow the market.
When the market goes down, 401(k)s will drop too. And when the market goes up, all you get is market performance minus the 401(k) fees — which means your 401(k) returns will trail the overall market.
There is one situation where 401(k)s shine. That’s if your employer matches your contribution. If you get, say, a 100% match, then you will double your investment right off the bat, which is terrific.
But if you are contributing more to your 401(k) than your employer is matching, you should contribute less. Stick to the employer match, but invest anything above that in an IRA, Roth, or other self-directed retirement accounts so you can choose where your money goes.
Investing in a 401(k) is better than not investing at all. And you should take advantage of any employer matching that is available to you. Just make sure that your 401(k) is not your only investment.
No matter what investment vehicle you use, keep on contributing money to your retirement. Don’t stop during a recession. Keep on saving.
Should You Cash Out During a Recession?
No, don’t do it.
Remember, you should buy low and sell high. Selling when the market is low is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
Rule #1 investors recognize a recession as a time to buy.
But you have to buy the right companies. Don’t just throw your extra money into your 401(k) if you’re already getting the maximum employer match. Instead, buy companies you select yourself.
Do the research, and you will find great companies that match your values at bargain prices. That’s how you get maximum returns over the long term.
Don’t Look at Your Retirement Account Balances During a Recession
When most people hear that the stock market took a dip, they get nervous. They pull up their retirement accounts and stare at their balances.
Don’t do this! You will just make yourself crazy for no reason.
When the market is going down is the worst time to check your balance. You might panic and sell, which would be a huge mistake.
That’s the last thing you should be doing. If you are investing for the long term, this short-term fluctuation won’t matter. Instead of selling, you should be buying great companies.
Should You Invest More in Your Retirement Accounts During a Recession?
A recession or a market crash provides a fantastic opportunity to invest more money into individual companies.
You can buy wonderful companies at bargain prices.
Look for companies that you understand and that align with your values, companies with a strong competitive advantage and trustworthy management that are priced at a deep discount to their actual value.
These are recession-proof companies that will still be around 10 years from now, long after any short-term crash.
During a recession, consider putting any extra money into an IRA or other self-directed retirement account.
This is an opportunity to buy amazing companies on sale. You will end up much better off in the long run by choosing your own companies instead of putting everything into a 401(k).
Do you know how much you need to retire? I’ve got a free retirement calculator so you can find your number.
Phil Town is an investment advisor, hedge fund manager, 3x NY Times Best-Selling Author, ex-Grand Canyon river guide, and former Lieutenant in the US Army Special Forces. He and his wife, Melissa, share a passion for horses, polo, and eventing. Phil’s goal is to help you learn how to invest and achieve financial independence.