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Squirrels, Nuts and Business Cycles

squirrel You might think that our title has something to do with the recent behavior of Wall Street and Washington. It probably could, but in this case, it doesn’t.

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It does refer to seasons. We’re in the Midwestern United States. We’re heading into fall which, of course, means winter is just around the corner. Squirrels are busy hoarding up nuts so they will have the food they need to sustain them through the winter months.

Hot and cold, boom and bust

Like the seasons, our economy moves through times when things are hot and times when they’re cold. We experience booms and busts.

It’s interesting, though, that our friends in the southern hemisphere are just heading into spring. Things are heating up there while they’re cooling down here! It reminds us that most businesses do best during the boom times, but some actually prosper when times are tough.

Almost every business has products or services that will do better when the economy isn’t doing as well. With your offerings, which ones will save your clients money? Those are the items you should promote now as consumers seek to stretch their budget.

Your cash stash

Speaking of stretching our budgets, just like squirrels hoarding nuts for winter, we should all make sure we have an emergency cash reserve. Financial planners recommend keeping between three to six months of living costs stashed safely away for ready access.

In recent times, some have suggested a Home Equity Line-of-Credit could be substituted for this cash reserve. Only you can decide if that’s the right option for you; however, with what’s going on with banks and the credit markets, it may pay not be your best option for your crucial cash stash.

If you own a business, you should also look at your working capital. Is it adequate to take you through a slow season? If not, look for ways to cut your costs so you can shore up your cash hoard.

Purchasing out of season

The seasons also create opportunities for us when we’re purchasing. For example, if you live where we live, you’ll probably get a better deal right now on a lawn mower than a snow blower. Timing your purchase when demand is down on these bigg ticket items can save you money.

Tougher times also create opportunities for us as consumers. Businesses still have bills to pay. They want to keep the doors open. So they may cut deals now that they would never consider in good times.

Purchasing in season

With other items, you’re better off buying in season. Retailers will often lure you to their stores by drastically discounting these items. For example, isn’t turkey cheaper right before Thanksgiving than any other time?

Time Money has a great article about the best time to buy everything. Planning when to buy is just as important as what you buy. Buying on impulse less often will save you BIGG money more often!

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Top Threats to Your Career and Finances in 2009

By Bigg Success Staff
12-17-08

caution

We’ve all heard plenty of bad news recently, but the bad news now is that there is more bad news to come. While we must think about the opportunities in front of us, it’s also important to consider the threats to our careers and our finances so we can prepare appropriately.

Recession

Consumers, businesses, non-profits, and governments, all over the developed world, are learning a hard lesson about leverage. We will climb our way out of this recession but it will take some time. Before it’s through, it will be one of the, if not the most, severe recession since the Great Depression. 

Layoffs will continue. In most recessions, layoffs occur mostly at the bottom of the earnings / education spectrum. Expect this recession to be more evenly distributed, if not hitting higher end jobs harder.

Outsourcing

Companies will continue outsourcing, but here’s the difference. Manufacturing jobs have been getting shipped overseas for some time now. As fuel prices rose, there actually seemed to be a resurgence in companies bringing manufacturing jobs back on shore.

Now more white-collar jobs are at risk thanks in part to technology that allows information to be shared instantly from any place in the world with internet access. We found a great article that discusses the characteristics of jobs that can now be easily outsourced and jobs that can’t. It also lists what you can do to make yourself less vulnerable and provides a list of jobs by their level of risk to offshoring.

Deflation

Expect deflation to continue as everybody keeps a tight lid on spending, the credit markets remain relatively tight, and inventories of everything from housing to cars remain comparatively high. The good news is lower prices will remain, but …

Inflation

Governments in the developed countries have poured money into the world economy at unprecedented rates. At some point, once the credit markets loosen up and demand returns, inflation could become a problem.

We’ve just witnessed prices on everything from gas to groceries rising quickly. We could see it again. It will take wise leadership to know when to slam on the brakes on economic stimulus without tightening so much that another recession ensues.

If this happens, that cash stash will quickly lose its value. Investments in hard assets have typically performed well in times of inflation.

Delayed retirement

A number of retirees are being forced to look for work after the freefall of their portfolios. Even more people who planned to retire soon are putting those plans on hold because they need to bulk up their assets again before they stop working. This will create even more competition in already tight job markets.

Benefits

Employers are under intense pressure to cut costs. It’s reasonable to expect them to cut benefits. Even if it’s promised now, don’t count on having health insurance provided to you as a retiree. Even while you’re working, expect to cover a greater share of the premiums.

Also don’t be surprised if your employer cuts back or eliminates the matches on your 401(k). These aren’t the only benefits at risk, but they’re two of the most significant ones.

Access to credit

It won’t show up on your personal balance sheet, but your credit score will be an incredible asset. Cash will be king as long as prices remain in a deflationary state. At some point, cash along with the ability to access credit will open doors for opportunities that most of us will never see again in our lifetimes. 

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(Image in this article by asifthebes)