Candy Valentino remembers times of financial uncertainty. Growing up the daughter of two teenage parents — her father a car mechanic, her mother a housekeeper — money was often scarce, she says.
As a teenager, “I watched my parents work so hard, and I started to think about what it would be like to be the person who owned the building rather than the person who rented it or worked there.”
Valentino went on to become a real estate investor and entrepreneur, as well as a guide for those looking to build wealth. Her recent book, “Wealth Habits,” offers a guide to achieving financial independence, and she will soon offer a similar online course.
But Valentino knows that it’s difficult to build wealth if you’re on shaky financial footing. If an economic downturn hits, you could find yourself headed in the wrong direction if you’re not prepared.
“The most important thing we can do so that we can survive any economic downturn, any recession, is to make small decisions up front so that you never get into an issue that you have to worry paying for the things you need,” she says.
Here’s what she says you can do now to recession-proof your finances.
One of the major dangers of a recession is that companies will be forced to lay off portions of their workforce. To keep the prospect of job loss from derailing your finances, search for multiple ways to bring in regular income, says Valentino.
And make sure they’re from a diverse array of sources. It’s the same logic that applies to building an investment portfolio: By spreading out your bets, you lower the chances that a downturn in any particular type of business can put a major dent in your plans.
That may mean finding a side hustle that wouldn’t be affected by the same factors as your full-time gig.
“Making sure that [your income streams are] not all in a similar or related industry is key so that if one market goes bad — like say, you’re heavy in real estate, and real estate market starts to go bad — you have income another way from another type of source,” Valentino says.
As a guideline, Valentino suggests putting at least 20% of your income toward savings and investments.
“If you think, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s no way I can do that,’ that is the No. 1 indicator that tells you that you are living beyond your means,” says Valentino. “If you can’t save and invest into yourself first, then all of these depreciating assets — the bags, the cars, the fancy shoes — are the physical representation that you’re living beyond your means.”
Valentino’s point is that if you find that you’re spending nearly all of your paycheck each month, you’re walking a bit of tightrope. Should the economy go south, you could find yourself dipping into debt in order to continue to fund your lifestyle.
Of course, you may have trouble saving even if you’re not buying shoes and trips to Europe. In those cases, you have two choices, says Valentino: “You can either decrease your expenses or increase your income to boost that bottom line.”
If you’re already working hard and your budget is thin, the prospect of boosting your income may feel onerous or unattainable. If that’s the case, try thinking outside of the box of what a side hustle can look like, Valentino says.
“It’s amazing how people can sell knowledge. There are courses on breastfeeding and how to help your child walk earlier,” she says. “These are things that most people think, ‘Oh, I don’t have talents or skills, I can’t do something like that.’ But anyone that’s lived for an amount of time in their life has experience in something.”
Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters how you can increase your earning power.