How to Survive the Meltdown

How is the recession affecting midlife women? And what should your new strategies be to protect yourself from now on? Here, answers to your most pressing financial questions about your investments, credit, family, and work.

By Jean Chatzky
Photograph: Daniel Behar

Q. Why do people tell me that a recession is a good time to start a business?

A. People are not necessarily telling you to quit your job, empty your savings, and fund your dream of opening a B&B. But if you are anxious about holding on to your job — or even if your job seems secure — you may want to place a side bet by moonlighting, says Stephanie Chandler, author of From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur. Since she believes that "the steadiest paycheck can disappear overnight," she recommends you start a business in your off-hours and work your way into full time. "There’s not much competition right now, because people are curling up from fear," she says. "This is the time when millionaires are made." Plus, many experts believe that a business that gets off to a decent start in bad times is poised for success when the economy rebounds.

Q. What if I get a buyout offer but still need to work? If I can hold on to the job instead, should I?

A. You can try. But understand, if the company makes you the offer, it’s signaling that your future with them isn’t very bright. That said, sometimes in periods of major corporate change, a new person is brought in and directed to cut heads, regardless of performance. If that’s the case, it makes sense to try to demonstrate why you shouldn’t be the one to go.

Q. I started a side business importing Hungarian wine three years ago. My initial investment is running out, and I am showing a loss. But I am getting good press and interest. Should I borrow more money to keep this business going, or give up and stay at my full-time job?

A. You shouldn’t give up any full-time job right now. Period. But if you’re thinking about continuing with your business part time, you have to look very closely at the numbers. Do you see profitability in your future? For help, tap into the network of the Service Corps of Retired executives ( These folks, many of them retired accountants, offer free business advice.


— Additional reporting by Arielle McGowen


Originally published in MORE magazine, February 2009. Jean Chatzky is More's personal finance expert. Read more of her advice here.

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