Dear Gen Z, here’s how to be OK when a recession hits

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This story is part Recession Assistance ServiceCNET’s coverage of how to make smart money moves in an uncertain economy.

I’m officially a year away from graduating from college and have no idea what’s next. A job, I hope. High school, maybe? For me, college has been about preparing me to enter the workforce, armed with all the skills I need to succeed. Now that it’s time to start applying for jobs and planning for long-term financial stability, it’s pretty scary.

Entering the job market comes with endless challenges, even in a healthy economy. And whatever the debate about whether we are in a official recession, the past few months have demonstrated how difficult it can be to remain financially stable in a faltering economy. Inflation is at historic highs and wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. Higher interest rates also make houses, cars and other big-ticket items more expensive and inaccessible.

And that makes the idea of ​​entering the job market all the more terrifying.

Older generations who have experienced recessions before can be better prepared. Millennials, those born approximately between 1981 and 1996, are feeling of deja vu. Many of this cohort entered the workforce just as the Great Recession was unfolding, and the years that followed altered the course of their careers and financial trajectories in major ways.

I caught up with five millennials who completed their undergraduate studies between late 2007 and 2009 and made it through the last economic downturn. I wanted to know how they were affected, from layoffs and budget cuts to career pivots, and what skills they developed that were most important to staying afloat. Each has had a unique experience that has affected their approach to finances today. Now, as they reflect on that time, they see the hard-won lessons and share their best advice with the next generation.

What stood out was the power to invest for the future, such as taking advantage of employee matching programs and contributing regularly to 401(k)s and Roth IRAs. The millennials I spoke with all encouraged Gen Zers to invest early in their careers. And they each had more nuggets of wisdom to pass on to us — including how to make the most of the early years of college, how to talk money with employers, discuss finances with partners, and build successful careers the way you want. unexpected.

Here’s what they shared via email.


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Accept professional uncertainty and be flexible

Katie Oelker, St. Paul, Minnesota

Katie Oelker worked in a bank’s audit department after college while living with her parents, primarily to build savings and repay private student loans. This eventually allowed her to afford to go back to school to get her Masters in Education.

Since Oelker did not want to pursue a career in banking or auditing, she always took advantage of the various learning opportunities, such as training sessions or conferences, that were offered as part of her job. “If you don’t like what you’re doing after graduation or even if you like it, there are always training opportunities to pursue that can help you advance your career,” I was told. she said over email.

This focus on career building came in handy when she decided to reorient herself once again, this time to become a Certified Business Education Instructor. After teaching classes ranging from personal finance to marketing at two different high schools, she now runs her own business as a freelance writer and financial advisor. The flexibility of his vision allowed him to navigate the slumping job market and explore new industries.

“I’ve never been afraid to open new doors and try new things when it comes to career and educational opportunities, and it has paid off,” she said.


Talk about money with your partner, even if it’s difficult

Jared and Katie Pogue, Atlanta, Georgia

Before getting married, Jared and Katie Pogue learned that they needed to find productive ways to talk about money, especially how to afford to start a family. The two had radically different perspectives on financial planning, which caused anxiety. Katie said she had many long-term goals, while Jared described her approach as “ignorant optimism”.

They have developed a routine for talking about money. They set a deadline of one day a week and slowly worked on their finances. They were finally able to align their goals, which helped them make big financial decisions, including how to finance a home, when to have kids, and whether to go back to school. They proposed a division of labor, with Jared taking care of daily and monthly payments, and Katie overseeing longer-term planning. Neither could do their part alone.

“Once we started making tangible progress and were on the same page, our financial conversations were much more fruitful,” Jared said.


Bargain for more, despite your doubts

Sara Gifford, Hyattsville, Maryland

Sara Gifford’s first full-time job outside of college wasn’t her ideal choice. But with the labor market tightening, she felt compelled to accept an offer from the company where she had completed her internship.

“I settled for a job where I was expected to work more than 60 hours a week for ridiculously low pay, and I didn’t negotiate my salary or benefits because I felt that the employer held all the power,” she said. Accepting such low pay at his first job made it more difficult to advance his benchmark salary in future negotiations.

Although recessions put more pressure on workers to avoid asking for higher pay, Gifford said that shouldn’t discourage you from negotiating other benefits, such as transportation allowances, paid vacations and flexible or remote working hours. If the employer disagrees with the benefits, it could be a sign to keep looking. “If the company pulls the offer, that’s such a red flag.”

Although she regrets not asking for a better salary, she is proud to have taken advantage of the opportunities to network and learn new skills. All of this came in handy when she decided to leave and build her career. Today, Gifford runs his own marketing strategy firm.


Identify your financial priorities

Adam Eisenberg, Huntington Woods, Mich.

Adam Eisenberg is still working at the company that offered him his first job in sales logistics. After college, he got his financial goals in order, which for him meant immediately prioritizing his student loan payments — instead of moving out of his parents’ house.

“I used my commission checks to pay off my debt. It took four years to do that, and the first three I was living with my parents, but it was worth it.” While everyone’s priorities are different, identifying them early on can help you better decide where your money should go.

In fact, Eisenberg originally had a second job offer he was considering and took a similar approach when comparing his options — he prioritized what mattered most to him. A higher commission rate, he decided, would ultimately be better for him, even if the base salary was lower. Another attractive element was the company’s growth potential.

Eisenberg said those entering the workforce should go beyond their normal job search to “make sure the foundation is there for future success.”


Budgets can be your calm in the storm

Jonathan Schrull, Indianapolis, Indiana

In late 2008, Jonathan Schrull was fired from his second job after graduating. He was unemployed for six months before finding a new job and felt compelled to postpone the start of his long-term career and put off saving and investing. This, he says, costs “a lot of money in the long run”.

Looking back he found that maintain a budget helped alleviate some of the stress. “Seeing the numbers in front of me made the situation more tangible and easy to understand,” he said. Having a way to track his expenses, even without any income, has helped him find new opportunities to cut expenses. It was important to look at his entire financial picture, not just his income, because “the numbers don’t lie.”

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