How to thrive in 2023 (despite the chaos of 2022)

Last year presented us with plenty of challenges:

  • Russia invaded Ukraine in February, causing so…many…problems.
  • The Tripledemic Plus (RSV + Flu + Covid + a scary form of strep throat) sickened kids and adults, filling ER rooms and hospitals.
  • Inflation and supply chain woes raised the cost of gasoline and food.
  • Sharply escalating crime rates, including school shootings.
  • Decreased academic performance among school-age students.
  • And the list goes on…

But you have more power than you may realize. Here are some ways we might be able to cope with these and new challenges in the coming year.

Experts say that in 2023, perhaps as it begins, a recession is likely. During a recession, people spend less and the economy slows down. Typically, there are layoffs.

  • Create an emergency fund to cover expenses if your source of income is impacted.
  • Always pay the rent or housing costs — never be late on those in a recession. If you need to, you can ask for more time to pay off other kinds of debts or make smaller payments, especially for medical bills, and you can economize on your other expenses, like food and clothing.
  • If you pay child support and you lose your job, never skip a child support payment. If you can’t pay the full amount, pay what you can, even if it is only $20. But as soon as you can, petition the court for a change of circumstances and get a new payment schedule rain writing. If you skip child support payments, you could lose visitation or custody rights. Some people who did not pay child support have even lost parental rights in Virginia.
  • Interest rates will likely go down in a recession. The good news is that you may be able to negotiate for a lower rate on your credit card.
  • At least make the minimum payment on credit card debt if that is all you can manage (and don’t put any expenses on the credit card). Don’t miss a payment; call first and see if you can work at an alternative payment plan. Reduce your reliance on credit.

Recession-proof your job. Employers lay off workers, especially hourly workers, in a recession. Or your hours may be cut.

  • Your job may be at increased risk if you work in retail, hospitality, restaurants or the travel industry. If you are laid off or your hours are cut, obtain a letter from HR stating that you were not let go “for cause,” in other words, because of anything you did. File for unemployment if you are laid off or if your hours are cut but you are still working.
  • This may be good time to change jobs to increase your wages or salary. You’ll usually get more of a pay increase with a job change than if you asked for a raise at your current job, and there may be more benefits. If you think layoffs may be coming to your workplace, you might start applying discreetly to hedge your bets. The trade-off is that if there are then layoffs at your new workplace, you may be targeted to go first, as a new employee.
  • An alternative strategy, if you love your job, is to be more visible in the workplace and find ways to show your value. For example, in a survey, 60% of managers said that remote workers would be the first to be cut — see what I mean? Less visible is perceived as less valuable.
  • Some brave souls start a business during the recession or begin work as contractors for their former employers. That works for some.
  • Traditionally, “recession-proof” jobs and industries include health care, pet care, utilities, skilled trades, grocery stores and teaching.
  • If you run your own business, examine if a recession will impact your client base. For example, if you have one point of contact at a company, you may want to expand your contacts. You may work with contractors who go out of business. Keep on top of your accounts receivable in case any of your clients declare bankruptcy.

Rising crime rates. Never was our personal safety more in focus than in 2022. Violent crime increased, burglaries increased, automobile theft increased and school shootings increased. How can we have a safer 2023?

  • Invest in relatively affordable home security measures, such as locks, doorbell cameras (e.g., Ring). More than 30% of burglars walk right in through the front door! Half of burglars break into a home through a first floor window or back door. Reinforce glass-paned doors with security bars. Remove items outside of your home that could be used to access your home’s exterior windows and doors. When you leave your home, leave a television or radio on (according to jailed criminals, this simple move deters thieves).
  • Park your car in a well-lighted parking lot or locked garage. Car thefts are up. In this area, Hondas and Toyotas get stolen the most frequently. Invest in inexpensive theft-prevention devices, such as steering wheel locks, GPS tracking devices and devices that will disable your car in the event of theft. NEVER leave your car idling and unattended.
  • Discuss school safety measures with your children’s school’s administrator or PTA. Talk to your children about bullying and discuss what to do if they are bullied (or they are the one bullying). Become involved in your child’s school; attend events or volunteer.

Declining academic achievement in schools. Students are experiencing historic declines in achievement in math and reading; teacher absenteeism and behavior issues are also on the rise. To help your child do his or her best…

  • Enroll your child in band or orchestra at school. These students learn persistence and self-discipline. Studies show these are the students who do best in school and later in life.
  • Assign homework. A daily half hour of skills practice with a workbook increases confidence, as well as grades.
  • Visit the library together on the same day, once a week to get ne
  • Have your child participate in a regular group activity such as scouts, volunteering, chess club or regular attendance at a house of worship.
  • Foster your child’s friendships with other children who do well academically and read or study. Guide them to associate with others who have a positive, helpful attitude.

High cost housing market. There are fewer houses on the market, and housing prices are increasing. Rents are way up. Mortgage rates are increasing.

  • Some people prefer to buy a home during a recession. However, home prices have not declined in this area.
  • This may not be the ideal time to buy a house but it may be a good time to sell your home (but only if you can find another home you can afford).
  • Instead of moving, make your current home your dream home with inexpensive upgrades, such as repairs, decluttering, painting interiors and lawn and garden maintenance.

High cost automobile market. The inventory for cars is relatively lower and car prices are increasing.

  • This may not be the best time to buy a car but expect to get top dollar for your used car.
  • Extend the life of your used car by keeping up with routine auto maintenance.
  • If you want a reliable car that is not costly to repair, pick a Honda or Toyota.
  • To avoid accidents and possible damage to your car (and increased insurance rates), park away from other vehicles in parking lots and avoid high-speed routes where there tend to be collisions.

Increasing food prices. Gas prices did go down by the end of 2022, but food prices just kept going up. In a recession, those food prices won’t go down. How can you save on food expenses?

  • Eat at home and prepare your own food. Plan your errands so you are at home for meal times, so you aren’t tempted to buy fast food or eat in a restaurant, especially if you have kids. Keep a granola bar in your purse or in the car to tide you over until you get home.
  • Make eating at home more fun than eating out by involving the kids (if you have them) in meal preparation and creating fun meal days, like Taco Night, Spaghetti Night, Breakfast for Dinner, etc. I babysit kids and I can attest that making pizza together is more fun than ordering takeout pizza!
  • Take your lunch to work.
  • Affordable foods include eggs, rolled oats, frozen mixed vegetables, brown rice and beans. You can save a lot on prepackaged yogurt by buying a large container of plain yogurt and adding your own mix-ins. It takes about 30 cents to make a cup of coffee at home.

You probably knew all this but maybe there was a tip or two that you hadn’t tried yet. Best wishes to you for a prosperous and better New Year in 2023!

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