The recession may have officially been over for a few years now, but it hasn’t been until fairly recently that most of us have started feeling the economic wind at our backs. With improving GDP, consumer confidence and housing numbers, it’s time to re-assess your financial position in light of the improving economy. Here are the top things you should be doing now:
Polish Your Resume & LinkedIn Profile
Lower unemployment figures mean better job prospects for many of us, so it’s time to dust-off your resume and prepare your online career profiles for new opportunities. Even if you don’t plan on looking for a new job anytime soon, the work landscape has changed, so it’s worth updating your resume to reflect the evolution in the job marketplace. Be certain your skills and experience are current to reflect this.
Negotiate a Raise
I finally got a job offer this month earning as much as I did before the recession. The six years in between were a hard slog of low or stagnant wages (anes yes, my share of zero wages, too). Mercifully, the economy has healed enough to allow many of us to reclaim some lost ground.
Ok, so maybe not all of us are in a position to ask for more money just this second, but in an improving economy, salaries can be expected to grow, too. If you didn’t get much of a raise (or even saw declining income) during the lean years, it’s time to do some research and figure out whether you’re now underpaid. Websites such as Vault.com and Salary.com can give you a peek into what the competition’s making – and whether you have room to negotiate a better salary.
Re-Assess Your Mortgage & Home Value
Falling home prices were virtually inescapable during the recession, and some of us even faced underwater mortgages — or worse. At last, home prices are now rebounding smartly, meaning it’s time to assess your home’s current value. If re-financing is an option, now’s probably the time to do so, since interest rates aren’t likely to be any lower in the coming years. If you’ve been waiting to sell, now’s also the time to consider entering the market again. And if your cash flow has improved, consider making small cosmetic improvements that can improve your home re-sale value further.
Update Your Budget
The recession taught us how to make do with less; many of us pared down our budgets as a consequence of falling incomes and job opportunities. Now that our incomes may be rising again, consider sticking to the budget you used during the recession – with a few small updates. Don’t spend more on the essentials, but Do pay off more of your high-interest debt (such as credit cards) — if you can afford it. Also consider increasing your savings or investment contributions.
Scrutinize Your Accounts
With improving economic conditions, you may have the ability to contribute more to your 401K or other investment accounts. It’s best not to do so blindly – the economy has changed, and you probably don’t want to invest as you did before the recession. For example, many experts believe bonds are likely to under-perform in the next few years; some investors may want to re-calibrate their portfolios, accordingly. Consult with an investment advisor or do a little homework before you embark on any changes.
Re-Visit Your Credit Score
If you’ve been afraid of the recession’s impact on your credit, it’s time to suck it up and take a look at where you stand today. Free services such as Credit.com enable you to track your entire credit history and bureau scores on a regular basis. Tidy up any unresolved accounts by negotiating directly with the creditors themselves, rather than using a third-party service (since going through a middleman tacks on extra fees).