What is a recession? What causes recession?

Do you remember the financial crisis of 2007? It caused global economic chaos and an extended period of an economic slowdown. Well, that phase in the global economy was a phase of recession. So what is a recession and what causes it? Let us learn more about it.


Let us first understand, What is recession?

A recession is when the GDP growth rate of a country is negative for two consecutive quarters or more. It  is a significant economic downturn spread across the economy that lasts more than a few quarters.

Although an economy can show signs of weakening months before a recession begins, the process of determining whether a country is in a true recession (or not) often takes time. A recession is short, but its impact can be long-lasting. It is based on key economic indicators like manufacturing data, decline in incomes, employment levels etc.,

So during the period of recession, the economic performance of the entire country stagnates. Businesses across the country will suffer the effects of the recession. The government too will be helpless to an extent. Take for example the global recession of 2007-2008. It started due to the housing market fiasco in the USA, but the global economy suffered and its adverse effects were seen in India as well.

What causes a recession?

There are many theories as to what may cause an economy to go into an economic slowdown. Some factors have been identified that may cause an economic slowdown in a country that ultimately results in a recession. Let us take a look at some such factors.

Economic shocks. An unpredictable event that causes widespread economic disruption, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The latest example is the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Loss of consumer confidence. When consumers worry about the state of the economy, they slow their spending and keep whatever money they can. Because close to 70% of GDP depends on consumer spending, the entire economy can drastically slow.

High interest rates. High interest rates makes it expensive for consumers to buy houses, cars and other large purchases. Companies reduce their spending and growth plans because the cost of financing is too high. The economy shrinks. We saw this in 1980 in the USA, when the rates were raised to battle stagflation. But instead, this resulted in a recession.

Deflation. The opposite of inflation, deflation means product and asset prices fall because of a large drop in demand. This encourages the consumer to wait until the prices to reduce further. This can cause a recession in the economy.

Housing Crisis: When the prices of houses fall the owners start losing equity. They can not pay their mortgages or take second mortgages on their homes. This may lead to foreclosure. This was the cause of the Great Recession of 2007.

Falling Wages: When the wages and salaries of workers do not increase with the same level as the inflation in the economy, the purchasing power of the public will reduce. He will not be able to afford the same goods and services that he used to. This can cause an economic slowdown.

Economic Scandals and Frauds: Sometimes banks, large corporations, and even government institutions employ questionable practices and illegal activities to boost profitability. When such schemes and scandals are exposed, the entire economy suffers. Take for example the current financial scandal of Sahara.

Stock Market: In a bear market, investors will pull money out of the stock market. This will drain capital out of the businesses and cause an economic slowdown. Crashes in the stock market are very harmful to the economy.

How Does a Recession Affect Me?

You may lose your job during a recession, as unemployment levels rise. Not only are you more likely to lose your current job, it becomes much harder to find a job replacement since more people are out of work. People who keep their jobs may see cuts to pay and benefits, and struggle to negotiate future pay raises.

Investments in stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets can lose money in a recession, reducing your savings and upsetting your plans for retirement. Even worse, if you can’t pay your bills due to job loss, you may face the prospect of losing your home and other property.

Business owners make fewer sales during a recession, and may even be forced into bankruptcy. The government tries to support businesses during these tough times, like with the PPP during the coronavirus crisis, but it’s hard to keep everyone afloat during a severe downturn.

With more people unable to pay their bills during a recession, lenders tighten standards for mortgages, car loans and other types of financing. You need a better credit score or a larger down payment to qualify for a loan that would be the case during more normal economic times.

Wealth Cafe advice:

Recessions are unavoidable and can be hard to predict. So even in times of healthy economic growth, it is good to be prepared for an economic downturn. Preparing for a rainy day now can save you trouble down the life.  Here are some ways you can prepare your finances for the possibility of a recession:

  1. Make sure you have an emergency fund of at least 6-7 months of your salary 
  2. Live within your means. Spending more than you make is never good.
  3. Limit your existing debt. You should not have an EMI of more than 30% of your income.
  4. Diversify your portfolio and plan an asset allocation based on your risk tolerance. You can use this risk calculator- https://financial.wealthcafe.in/risk-calculator/ 


Check out our course NM101: Maximise your savings - to learn how to manage your money and get started with savings.


Also, please note that we are not indicating or moving towards recession currently. There are many things that are happening around us and the world. We are opening back after COVID 19 lockdowns and there is a supply demand mismatch, but every industry and everyone is working towards making things better. Invest as per your allocation and goals and keep a tab of the overall macro market.

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