A financial planner says there’s a ‘huge opportunity’ for new investors to make money during a recession, as long as they’re patient

A recession could be a big opportunity for first-time investors. Mariano Regidor/Redferns/Getty

An economic recession can cause incomes to fall or stagnate, make it more difficult to pay down expensive debts, and generally heighten anxiety around money.

But a lull in the markets can also be a boon to your wealth if you take the right steps – and most importantly, give it time, says Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi, a personal-finance company.

“The younger you are, the longer you have to be invested, the more advantageous getting into the market when prices are low will be,” Anastasio told Business Insider.

Anastasio likens the idea to shopping during a sale at the mall. “People very well understand the concept of, ‘this is the price of a good, I want to buy it when it’s cheaper,'” she says.

“When the markets go down, whether there’s a day where markets are down or we’re going through some type of bigger market downturn, that really just means everything is on sale,” Anastasio says.

“Everything is cheaper than it was a day ago, a week ago, and that’s when it can be most advantageous to us to buy into the market because you’re getting those same securities and the same number of shares at a cheaper price, and you’re going to continue to own those shares as they increase in value over time,” she says.

‘Buy low, sell high’ is an investment strategy made famous by Warren Buffett

The concept of “buy low, sell high” is nothing new, but it works for building wealth. It’s an investment strategy made famous by Warren Buffett, who often advises investors to “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.” By investing at the bottom of the market when valuable stocks are cheapest, your money has even greater earning potential when it sits for an extended period of time.

Buffett is a champion of the buy-and-hold strategy – and when he sells, it usually doesn’t have much to do with price or market conditions and everything to do with fine-tuning his long-term strategy. After all, Buffett believes the best wealth-generating investments are long term.

To be sure, most financial experts recommend investing only after you’ve paid off high-interest debt and set up an emergency fund, which can act as a safety net should you face an unexpected expense or lose your job. Your retirement accounts are usually the best place to start investing, since they’re focused on long-term growth anyway.

Anastasio acknowledges that investing for the first time is intimidating enough without the threat of a recession looming, but those who continue investing as they otherwise would, or even start now, won’t be sorry.

“People thinking about investing in their 401(k) for the first time – you don’t want to wait until things are more expensive to start buying them,” she says. “You want to take advantage of when they’re still on sale and buy it and make the most of what you can possibly get with your dollars and watch those appreciate over time. Rather than being hesitant about it, I would prefer to look at it as an opportunity.”

It’s also important to remember that market downturns will continue to happen throughout your career, Anastasio says. “For some of us this isn’t the first recession, perhaps for some of us it is, but it’s certainly not going to be the last.”

“Especially for people who are looking to get invested for the first time, or have a whole career ahead of them, now is not the time to be hesitant to be invested, now is the time to be aggressive about investing in your future,” she says.