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8 Benefits to a Recession or Down Market

This article was written by in Investing. 9 comments.


Will politicians say the word recession? Not if they’re serious about helping their party get elected. Yet, it feels like we are in a recession — or at least, that’s what the media wants us to believe. The stock market, measured by the indexes, is certainly in a downward trend, but I suppose I agree with Kiplinger. There are some reasons to be happy.

1. The rebate check. Soon, most Americans will receive a check from the IRS, possibly for $300, maybe $600, or even $1,200 or somewhere in between. The government’s intention is to spur the economy — or is it? Perhaps it’s more of a feel-good measure in a year when Democrats and Republicans alike must create fan-friendly press. The last time the IRS sent rebate checks en masse, it didn’t have much effect on the economy. In fact, the economy was already recovering by the time the checks arrived.

If you’re wondering how much of a rebate you’ll receive, use this economic stimulus tax calculator. The “rebate” is an advance on a new tax credit that will appear when you file taxes for your 2008 income. If you qualify, you’ll get the rebate this year instead of next year.

bear market2. Undervalued stocks and bonds. Go for it. Yes, in general it’s bad to time the market. Yes, it’s possible stocks in general will go down more this year. But I believe that dips like the one we’re experience are perfect opportunities for long-term investors to pick some good values company by company or buy the overall market through a low-cost index fund like VTSMX.

3. Lower interest rates. Kiplinger says that as the Federal Reserve lowers the federal funds target interest rate, opportunities are available for those with good credit ratings to borrow cash as needed. I’m not quite sure this has played out quite yet. From what I’ve seen, banks are still being tight and not lending as much even to those who are well qualified. Interest rates on mortgages certainly haven’t dropped much. In fact, rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage, a typical loan for qualified home buyers, have increased in the last few months, from 5.5% to 5.9% (source: Bankrate).

4. New tax breaks. “You might owe less to the IRS this year thanks to a new deduction for private mortgage insurance, an extension of the sales-tax write-off and a boost in the alternative minimum tax exemption amount.” This is helpful for home buyers who couldn’t afford to put 20% down on their house and were required to resort to paying PMI.

5. Falling house prices. Well, at the moment, there are more people trying to sell homes then there are buyers. This inequity between supply and demand means that in order to sell houses, prices must fall. But as there are fewer people looking to purchase than there are looking to sell, this benefits fewer people than increasing house prices.

6. Higher retirement account limits. Kiplinger suggests using the rebate check to turbocharge your retirement savings. This year, you can invest $5,000 (or $6,000 if you’re over 50 years old) in a Roth, Traditional IRA, or a combination of the two. If you have a 401(k) you can contribute up to $15,500 (plus another $5,000 if you’re over 50). These limits will continue to increase, too.

7. Help with college bills. Got student loans? If you’re a teacher or if you work in public service, you may be able to receive grants. Those with high debt and low income will benefit the most.

8. New rollover option. If your adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less, you can now roll over your 401(k) directly into a Roth IRA without having your funds go through a Rollover Traditional IRA first. Not only that, but if your income is above the $100,000 threshold, just wait until 2010 when the income limit disappears. For any funds in your 401(k) from a pre-tax source, you will owe tax when you roll over into a Roth IRA, providing early tax income to the government, possibly to help pay for expensive programs like Social Security.

The option I’m most excited about is easily number 2, undervalued stocks. I was interviewed by Columbia News Tonight, a weekly television program produced by Columbia University‘s Graduate School of Journalism the other day, and we talked about this topic. I’ve increased my 401(k) contributions to the maximum this year, a feat made possible thanks mainly to my additional income not from my employer, even though my retirement account’s value is down about 10% so far this year.

Image source: azrainman
Good News in Hard Times [Kiplinger]

Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published March 17, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar traineeinvestor

A good list – although I would take the view that the rebate and the lower taxes are very illusory benefits given that the US government has to borrow to fund it.

2, 3 and 4 are the real benefits for those looking to accumulate assets.

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avatar SingleGuyMoney

As much as it sucks right now, in the long run, the down market will really help. As you mentioned, stocks and bonds are really undervalued right now.

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avatar Kyle

I will take my rebate check and put it directly into my emergency fund. Not economic stimulation from me.

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avatar David Mackey

Yeah, I see my economic stimulus rebate check going to pay already existing bills – not pay new ones.

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avatar AJC @ 7million7years

What do you do when your corner store has a sale … you stock up big on the stuff that you will need later.

Why is Costco so successful, because people buy up big because their stuff is ALWAYS ON SALE.

Right now, for perhaps the first time in living history, BOTH real-estate and the money needed to fund it ARE ON SALE!

What should you do?

Stock up NOW (while you are still working and cann afford to fund some mortgages) to enjoy LATER (when the real-estate has appreciated … more money comes in than the remaining mortgages cost you) when you RETIRE YOUNG!

Read some blogs, get educated … but, invest while you still can …

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avatar John Zeratsky

> Interest rates on mortgages certainly haven’t dropped much.

That’s because the fed overnight rate has little to do with mortgage rates. If anything, they are inversely related — lower fed rates point toward higher inflation, which equals higher mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates are determined by long-term mortgage bonds. The key words there are “long-term.” The fed’s overnight rate is the definition of short-term; you can’t get much shorter than overnight!

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avatar Brenna

The one benefit with a recession happening now is that with good credit, I took advantage of the low interest rates to finance my new (used) car.

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avatar Maria

With the extra $300 per kid, my check should be around $2,100. But I hardly consider this free money. It came from the taxpayers, was borrowed or simply printed by the Federal Reserve. In the end, we all pay.

Mortgage rates have actually increased after the most recent Fed actions lowering the overnight rate. Perhaps banks realize that inflation will kill their profits if they are only charging 4-5% interest.

As far as buying stocks, they have a long way to go (down) before I jump back in. Buy silver … it’s heading up, folks.

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avatar Trampoline Man

So what do we think the benefits are:

1. Growing in a declining market costs much less. Growing is horrifically expensive. More stock, more cash, more space, more staff. It eats money. Do it when the market is down and you can grow share with out the spend.

2. The competition became distracted. Some competitors cut back, reducing range and staff. That gave us opportunities.

3. We learnt to focus on the best customers. One of the first things to happen was poorly managed customers going bust. It has really tightened credit control and our views on who are the best people we want to work with.

4. We treat things with more respect. From forklifts in the warehouse, to the chairs and computers, people have started to feel respect for things. Everything is less disposable.

5. We learnt to look for value again. We have re-pitched all main items of expenditure, not necessarily giving the business to the cheapest, but the best.

6. We have slowed down and thought more.

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