Make It Automatic

At some point, we're going to come out of this recession. You'll have more money in your wallet, and your urge to spend may rear its ugly head. After all, you've been good for so long, cutting back on the extras, bargain shopping for the essentials and walking by sale after sale. It's natural to feel a little deprived, and it's okay to buy yourself something if you can afford it. But if, right now, you set up your savings contributions so they're automatically pulled out of your check each pay period, or out of your bank account once a month, you'll have a much easier time hanging on to the good habits you've developed, says Nancy Dunnan, author of Recession-Proof Your Financial Life . You'll wiggle your extra spending money out of your bank account balance after you've made savings contributions, not before, meaning a new pair of shoes won't cut into your long-term goals.

Don't chase the next big thing. When you've lost money in the market, or spent down your emergency fund, the temptation is to try to bring those balances back up as fast as possible. But that's not the smartest way to go about this, Karp says. "You shouldn't invest in something you don't understand because of the promise of big returns. We're going to see a lot of that now—people taking inordinate risk because they have the desire to get even." If you were doing things right in the first place—allocating your investments for your age and risk tolerance, diversifying to protect yourself, keeping your short-term money liquid—then you really don't need to make any changes now. The market will bounce back on its own, and your thoughtfully invested money will be right there with it.

One tool I like—and you've probably heard this from me before—are target date retirement funds. You select a fund for your money that matches the year closest to when you plan to retire, and it automatically rebalances as you near that date. That way, you don't have to micromanage your long-term investments.

Paying off debt


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