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The economy is down. Now might be the best time to start saving and investing

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOE THA LOVE OF $")

BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY: (Singing) For the love of money. Got to make that money, man. That money, man - it's still the same now.

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We all love money, but keeping it ain't easy. This is especially true during times of economic downturn. Many Americans are currently struggling to maintain financially healthy habits with inflation still rising, wages stagnant and a recession looming, possibly. Lindsay Bryan-Podvin is a financial therapist who helps people manage their money and joins us from her vacation in Palm Springs, California. Thank you so much.

LINDSAY BRYAN-PODVIN: Thank you so much for having me, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Let's get into this concept of financial health. Now, I would imagine if I did a checkup, they would say, girl, you not healthy. But what are the core components of financial health? And how does one maintain it or even try to build it when times are tough?

BRYAN-PODVIN: So when I think about financial health, I'm thinking about, yes, making sure a person has an understanding of their financial landscape - what's coming in, what's going out. Are they working towards goals that really matter to them, and are they on track? Do they have a financial safety net? And making sure that the way that they feel about it isn't impacting them negatively in their life, meaning they're not ruminating about money all day, they're not stressing out about whether they are earning or saving enough. They are able to sleep at night because they know that they are in control of their money versus their money being in control of them.

RASCOE: So, you know, financial advisors typically recommend you have six months of living expenses saved in cash. How can people who can barely make ends meet build their savings?

BRYAN-PODVIN: One way to save money is to spend less, and the other way to save money is to earn more so that you have more left over so that you can save it.

RASCOE: OK, I like that one. I like that. I like making more money.

BRYAN-PODVIN: (Laughter).

RASCOE: But does it come down to - when it comes to reducing spending, is - are - is things like foregoing the Starbucks, not doing the Uber Eats - I mean, I'm saying it like it's eating peas because that's what it feels like. But is that the sort of thing that people have to do?

BRYAN-PODVIN: You know, it depends. And my philosophy is very much what are the things that you can reduce that will not impact your overall wellness? So if for somebody a once-a-week Starbucks gives them that little boost they need on Mondays so that they can get their workweek started right and they can feel good about the week, then I'm not going to be too mad about it. So my take is to always take a look at your spending. And there's often these little leaks in our spending. You know, the things like duplicate streaming services or maybe you paid for a wellness subscription that you really haven't opened in the last few months. Those would be times that I would learn how to dial back. And my favorite tip is before you go grocery shopping and you're getting ready to toss all of the food that you didn't eat or rotted into the compost bin, take note of what goes in there week after week. So kind of doing a little audit. There are some pretty cool apps to help you reduce food waste and get your food at a discount. Too Good To Go is an app that's currently live in New York and L.A. and some other cities, and it's kind of a win-win for everyone.

RASCOE: Lindsay, is there anything in particular - because we're dealing with inflation, you know, people are concerned about a possible downturn. Are there specific financial tips you have for thriving in this economy?

BRYAN-PODVIN: First is to take a look at history and understand that inflation goes up, recessions happen, but the economy has always operated in this period of expansion and contraction. So first, kind of reminding yourself that this particular snapshot of financial uncertainty and economic inflation is temporary. Now, of course, that temporary nature of it doesn't mean that it changes anything at the gas pump or when you go to get your groceries. So being really kind to yourself about saving as much as you can so that if things continue to go the way that they are or if your job becomes unstable, you have a financial cushion that you can fall back on. The other thing to know is that you want to be automating your savings. So many of us save the money that we have left over at the end of the month versus treating our saving like a bill. So when you get paid automatically having a transfer set up to move $20 or $50 from your checking into your savings account, so that way you're building in that savings just the way you would pay a credit card bill or your rent.

RASCOE: Lindsay Bryan-Podvin is a financial therapist. Thank you so much for joining us.

BRYAN-PODVIN: Oh, my pleasure, Ayesha. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.