A recession can be defined as a slowdown in overall economic activity. As 2012 draws to a close, economists are somewhat fearful that factors such as the fiscal cliff could reverse the slow economic recovery in the U.S. from what has been coined as the "Great Recession." But how could this impact your net worth? There are several ways that a major recession can reduce your bottom line.

Job Loss
This is the most obvious way that a recession could impact your net worth. Recessions always bring unemployment, which increases the risk that you could get laid off. A recent survey by the Fed showed that unemployment in America nearly doubled from 5% to 9.5% from 2007 to 2010. This would in turn force you to live off of your savings or else live off of your credit cards or get a personal loan to tide you over until you find another job and thus reduce your assets (or increase your debt).

Reduced Income
You may be lucky enough to keep your job - as long as you're willing to take a cut in pay. Sentier Research released a report showing that average household income as of April of 2012 was still more than 8% below what it was at the end of 2007.

Decrease in Property Values
The housing industry is always hit hard in a recession, because fewer people are working, which reduces the pool of available homebuyers. Since 2008, property values have declined by an average of nearly a whopping 40% across the board. The major decline in the net worth of the average American family is largely attributable to this factor; the Fed survey also revealed that the average American family's net worth declined from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010 - which places it at its lowest level in the past 20 years.

Investment Losses
Recessions inevitably impact the stock and bond markets. The stock market was hit hard by the Subprime Meltdown of 2008, and many Americans saw their investment and retirement portfolios plummet in value almost overnight. Although the markets have largely recovered since then, many investors have been fearful to get back in and recoup their losses. And interest rates are also likely to stay at their historically low level for the foreseeable future, which means that fixed income investors can most likely expect to receive a very low return on their money for some time to come.

The Bottom Line
If the economy does take another downturn, then the factors listed above will only intensify. Review your investment portfolio carefully and make sure that you are taking the right amount of risk. This may be a good time to limit your exposure to volatile sectors of the economy such as technology. But if you are lucky enough to have a secure income, then this could be an excellent time to look at purchasing real estate. If you already own a home and are looking for a viable investment or additional income, then you may want to consider purchasing a rental property or two. As mentioned previously, property values always drop during recession, which makes this an excellent time to buy. And if you feel that there is a real chance that you could be looking for work again if the economy worsens, then you should increase your short-term savings now so that you will have something to fall back on if you become unemployed. For more information on how a recession can affect your net worth and how you can prepare yourself for it, consult your financial advisor.

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Assets That Increase Your Net Worth

    Your home, properties and vehicles can all increase your net worth.
  2. Personal Finance

    The Complete Guide To Calculating Your Net Worth

    Here's everything you need to know about calculating your net worth.
  3. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Tips For Recession-Proofing Your Portfolio

    Find out what to do when the sun sets on a burgeoning market.
  4. Credit & Loans

    10 Ways Student Debt Can Destroy Your Life

    If you're getting a student loan, think critically about how you will manage your loan. Student debt could have a profound negative impact on your life.
  5. Markets

    Is Another Bear Market Ahead?

    With market volatility recently reaching its highest level, investors are questioning what the outlook is for U.S. stocks in 2015 and beyond.
  6. Investing

    Will Donald Trump Be Able to Fund His Entire Campaign?

    Discover why Donald Trump's extravagant wealth and vast net worth may still not be sufficient to self-finance a successful presidential campaign in 2016.
  7. Investing Basics

    Understanding the Inverted Yield Curve

    An inverted yield curve occurs during the rare times when short-term interest rates are higher than long-term interest rates.
  8. Economics

    How Does the Puerto Rican Debt Crisis Affect the US?

    Learn about the specifics of the Puerto Rican debt crisis and why economists disagree on how significantly it could affect the United States.
  9. Forex

    Brazil's Recession and its Effect on the World Economy

    In 2010, Brazil's economic growth was a precursor to arrival on the world stage. Five years later, the economy is in shambles. What happened?
  10. Economics

    Is U.S. Inflation on the Horizon?

    Inflation, or the general price level of all goods and services in an economy, has remained subdued in the years following the Great Recession. Given recent developments, is the U.S. on the verge ...
  1. What are the risks of annuities in a recession?

    Annuities come in several forms, the two most common being fixed annuities and variable annuities. During a recession, variable ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does the risk of investing in the industrial sector compare to the broader market?

    There is increased risk when investing in the industrial sector compared to the broader market due to high debt loads and ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the correlation between term structure of interest rates and recessions?

    There is no question that interest rates have enormous macroeconomic importance. Many economists and analysts believe the ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How can I hedge my portfolio to protect from a decline in the retail sector?

    The retail sector provides growth investors with a great opportunity for better-than-average gains during periods of market ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Why should an investor in the retail sector consider the Consumer Confidence Index?

    Investors in the retail sector should consider the Consumer Confidence Index, or CCI, because it measures how consumers feel ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Which type of retailers tend to perform best during weak periods in the economy?

    Retail is a broad investment sector comprising many different market segments, such as automotive, building supply, grocery ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  2. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  3. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  4. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  5. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  6. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!