Some people describe the current economy by paraphrasing Dickens: It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. On the plus side, the economy seems to be steaming forward, with robust job growth, increased consumer spending and a stock market that seems to set new records every week. Yet, in some regions and industry sectors, millions of Americans are still out of work and are facing foreclosures, eviction and the end of unemployment benefits. While inflation has picked up this year, it may either be temporary or long-lasting. While COVID-19 immunizations have allowed life to return to nearly normal in many areas, rising infection rates among the unvaccinated in many states are raising the specter of a return to lockdowns and business restrictions. While new infrastructure spending will help improve America’s crumbling roads, bridges and water supplies, the trillion-dollar cost will greatly increase the national debt to near record levels and may result in increased gas taxes and rises in capital gains taxes and taxes on the wealthy. Given these dichotomies, it’s hard to predict where the economy is headed, making it difficult for people to figure out what they should do financially to prepare for what may or may not happen. The best answer may be to simply take a good look at your personal finances and investments right now and see if there are minor adjustments you can make that will better prepare you for any outcome. For example, if you’re worried about inflation eroding the value of your nest egg, you might want to increase your exposure to stocks. If your stock portfolio is concentrated in larger companies, it might be time to sell some of the stocks (or funds that invest in them) and use the proceeds to gain greater exposure to midcap, smallcap and international stocks, real estate and even gold. If you’re worried about losing your job, start building up an emergency fund to pay for everyday expenses for at least six months or more, but don’t lock up that money in a CD where you’re barely able to earn any interest. If you’re paying down a mortgage, consider refinancing at today’s lower interest rates, before the Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates. If you’re unsure how to do this on your own, consider working with a qualified fee-only financial planner who can help you prepare for both the best and worst of times to come.
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