11 Ways to Recession Proof Your Retirement Amid Economic Uncertainty

Don’t be caught off guard by a recession.
Updated July 4, 2023
Fact checked
mature couple getting advice from their financial consultant

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Planning for retirement can be stressful as you figure out where to invest your money and how to build a successful retirement portfolio.

But recessions can happen at any time, even during your retirement, and you may not be prepared if your portfolio takes a hit.

So what can you do to recession-proof your retirement and ride out the storm? Here are a few things to plan for just in case.

Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.

Reduce your debt

shurkin_son/Adobe senior woman making online payments of bill using laptop

It’s a good idea to crush your debt before retirement under normal circumstances. After all, you don’t want that additional debt hanging over your head when you retire and have to use some of your retirement savings to pay down debt.

But it’s also important to get that debt off your balance sheet so you’re not dragged down by the additional costs during a recession. Your investments may decline during a recession, but your debt will always be there until you pay it off.

Want to learn how to build wealth like the 1%? Sign up for Worthy to get ideas and advice delivered to your inbox.

Increase your savings

Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe sign high interest savings on a paper and glasses

You may be worried about investments in the stock market or real estate that could be affected by a recession.

Instead, consider moving some money to a savings account so you can keep it in a safe place that isn’t as risky as the stock market. You’ll also want to look into a high-yield savings account that can earn you extra cash during a recession.

Revisit your budget

Rido/Adobe mid adult couple working on home finance

You may be on a fixed income when you retire, but that doesn’t mean you should stay on a fixed budget.

It’s a good idea to revisit your retirement budget regularly to update changes to costs you have to pay like groceries or utilities, and factor in price changes due to a recession.

You should also take a closer look at ways seniors throw away money to shore up any places you may be tossing dollars away instead of keeping them in your pocket.

Build up your emergency fund

Andrii Zastrozhnov/Adobe mature woman talking on a smartphone

An emergency fund is an important piece of any budget regardless of whether you’re working or retired. It can help you cover unexpected costs from a health emergency, car accident, major home repair, or other issues without needing to dip into retirement funds.

Remember to top off your emergency fund before you retire so you have it available in case something happens. It becomes even more vital when you have to lock down other investments to get you through an economic downturn.

Diversify your investments

Elnur/Adobe various financial investment options

You may be invested in the stock market with your former employer’s 401(k) or an IRA. And while these types of accounts are invested in the stock market, you can still adjust them as you need to if there’s a recession.

Make sure your portfolio is invested in stocks and other options that aren’t prone to excessive risk. You may have been able to weather economic upheaval when you were younger and had time to earn that money back, but retirement is a good time to rebalance your portfolio and put funds in more stable investments.

Find a recession-proof side hustle

gajendra/Adobe teacher reading book studying in college library

Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you can’t work, and there are side hustles you may enjoy while bringing in extra income to get through a recession.

Consider becoming a tutor for students, baking cakes and cookies, selling things online, or finding a great side hustle that utilizes skills you used in your professional life that can help you pad your retirement funds during a recession.

Delay your Social Security payments

ArtFamily/Adobe senior bearded man showing refusal sign

You’ll thank yourself for delaying your Social Security payouts to have more cash on hand when a recession hits.

Waiting to get your Social Security distribution can help you boost the amount of money you receive each month. So pushing back your first Social Security check could mean you get more each month to help you through a recession.

Pro tip: Need to know how to estimate your Social Security payments? The Social Security Administration offers an online calculator to help you compare your monthly income based on how much you make and when you start collecting payments.

Hire a financial advisor

Rido/Adobe mature couple meeting financial advisor for investment

Sometimes it may be a good idea to bring on someone who can help you build a recession-proof portfolio and navigate through a downturn in the market.

Consider finding a financial advisor who can help you with your cash, stocks, real estate, and other investments. It’s also a good idea to find a financial advisor that specializes in retirement planning to get you the best outcomes under tough financial circumstances.

Continue investing during recessions

It can be frustrating to add money to a retirement account that’s going downhill if you’re working and investing during a recession.

But investing during a recession could be a good thing as you’ll be investing when the stock market or other investments are down. That money you’re investing during a recession could rebound before you retire and give you better returns.

Take advantage of senior discounts

Robert Kneschke/Adobe customer paying at the supermarket cashier

You don’t have to spend money during a recession if you can find additional ways to save it.

Check out ways retirees can save extra cash such as taking advantage of senior discounts. You may be surprised by how many different retailers offer deals for seniors that can help you keep extra money in your pocket. So do some digging and see where you can take advantage of discounts to get you through a recession.

Hold off on major purchases

Prostock-studio/Adobe senior couple hugging at marina pier

You may be excited to spend your retirement years traveling around the world or tinkering with a car, boat, or second home you always wanted.

But think about holding off on those major purchases during a recession. It’s important to have that extra cash on hand if you need it for everyday costs. You may even want to invest it to take advantage of lower prices.

Bottom line

shurkin_son/Adobe lady of 50s in plaid blazer having online meeting

Planning for retirement and growing your wealth can be daunting tasks, but you may be doing better financially than you think.

Remember to create both a current budget and an estimated retirement budget to find out how much you may need in the future and where you can get that money now to save it for later.

It’s also a good idea to create additional estimated retirement budgets for different scenarios like a recession so you know you’ll be ready to adjust your plans if the economy changes.

FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

Customers Bank High Yield Savings Account Benefits

  • Incredible 5.16% APY1 to boost your savings
  • Interest is compounded daily and posted to your account monthly
  • Enjoy 24/7 online access to your account and funds
  • FDIC insured, no fees, $1 minimum deposit

Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt