What Happens to My IRA in a Recession?

We hear about it in the news daily – the looming threat of an economic recession. But what does a recession mean for your retirement funds? 

The first thing we need to establish is what is a recession?  According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is a decline in economic activity lasting several months. A recession typically involves a decrease in market output (GDP) and employment.   

If we enter a recession, the value of your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can be influenced by several factors. Here are a few things to consider: 

Stock Market Performance

The stock market is generally one of the main places we see indicators of a recession. Because a recession is a decline in economic activity, the stock market also tends to decline during recessionary periods. If a significant portion of your IRA is invested in stocks or equity-based funds, you may see a decrease in the value of your portfolio. However, it’s important to remember that market performance can vary, and certain sectors or stocks may still perform well. 

Interest Rates

During a recession, central banks often lower interest rates to stimulate economic activity. Lower interest rates spur demand in real estate markets, making recessions an interesting time for those investing in real estate. Depending on the market demand and the available inventory in your market, you may see real estate investments increase in value. 


The impact of a recession on your IRA can depend on the diversification of your investments. Diversifying your portfolio across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities, can help mitigate the effects of a recession. Some asset classes may perform better than others during economic downturns, so diversification can help balance the overall impact on your portfolio. 

Time Horizon

The length of the recession and your time horizon for retirement can also influence the impact on your IRA. If you have a long-time horizon, you may have more opportunities to recover from market downturns. Historically, the stock market has shown resilience and recovered from recessions over the long term. 


It may feel as though a recession is the time to tighten up on spending, this same sentiment may also impact how you contribute to your IRA. While it may seem like a safe decision to hold back on IRA contributions during a recession, this could have a negative impact on your financial future. A recession can influence the value of certain asset categories, which could mean getting more bang for your buck when it comes to certain investments.  

It’s important to remember that predicting the precise impact of a recession on your IRA is challenging, as it depends on various economic factors and market dynamics. Consider consulting with a financial advisor who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances and investment goals. 

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