As the election results were tallied past midnight Tuesday, I was struck by how the results really would not make much difference for my investments over the next four years, the next decade or the rest of my life.
That’s not because the president can’t do good things or that the election results won’t impact the market and economy.
Instead, it’s about what the newly elected president and his immediate successors are facing.
Obviously, the president can’t avoid the COVID-19 pandemic at this point. Whether they can solve it, fix it or figure out how to ride it out will be an open question until it is answered, and lets hope there are answers soon.
But no matter the president, the next decade is going to see a significant recession, a market crash, the fallout from the recent — and perhaps forthcoming economic stimulus — and much more. And that’s only exacerbated by the lingering after economic impact of the coronavirus.
I don’t want to ruin your post-election celebration or to add to your post-vote panic, but you can’t expect much help from a higher power here. The government (and the Federal Reserve) can’t stop the dam from breaking.
How you respond to these highly likely events — or prepare for them — truly depends on where you are in life.
In my late 50s, and staring at the possibility of retiring — or at least cutting back — at some point in the next decade, my biggest financial worry is “sequence-of-return risk,” the potential for me to dramatically reduce my income and then have the stock market crater, damaging my portfolio and my prospects for the rest of my life.
By comparison, my children — both in their late 20s — should be more concerned with their ability to emotionally withstand a downturn, and to invest into it, because while there are obvious trouble signs, the economic underpinnings suggest that we’re looking at a deep downturn that will be a buying opportunity for investors with the time to wait it out.
So whether you are celebrating the election or lamenting it, turn your focus away from politics now to consider what lies ahead that will blitz your finances in the future.
Recession: On my podcast, Money Life with Chuck Jaffe, I talk with economists and market strategists every day.
I have heard them argue over whether we have seen a recession due to the pandemic, or if perhaps we are still caught up in a recession that started in February and that was mostly forgotten as the stock market rallied.
Personally, for all of the growth we have seen bouncing back from the lows of the pandemic, I believe there is a recession that will come to the fore as we find the next normal.
It will be a long time before most Americans feel free to live life as they did before coronavirus, to attend sporting events and concerts, to have parties and plan big weddings, to travel and tour and go sightseeing.
Yes, there have been troubled times in the past, but you didn’t necessarily see them closing the local Burger King or jewelry shop or shuttering the entire local strip mall.
My barber, Gianfranco, notes that business at his shop is off about 30 percent since he re-opened in May. That’s not one-time revenue lost to the spring shutdown, it’s that when customers don’t go to the office, don’t have family get-togethers, don’t need a special shave for a wedding weekend, and can do a zoom meeting without anyone noticing that they’re shaggy, they go longer between clips.
The creation and distribution of a vaccine isn’t going to solve that problem overnight. There is at least one more big wave of small business failures yet to come; while the pandemic has accelerated progress in some businesses, there is undeniable pain ahead as the business world adjusts to whatever passes for normal in the future.
Market crash: If you can wait long enough, you could call this a buying opportunity, but if you are “on the wrong side of the momentum,” as Adam Grimes of Talon Advisors told me this week, and you buy too early and catch a falling knife, the pain will be palpable.
Jim Rogers, co-founder of George Soros’s Quantum Fund, said in a recent interview that the next bear market will be the worst in nearly 80 years.
Whether you think it’s a bubble bursting or the market reacting to current events doesn’t matter. There are too many trip wires for this market to keep moving forward for a decade without a stumble and a blowout.
Fallout from stimulus: There’s another word for how the world reacts to central banks stimulating the markets: inflation.
Historically, massive economic stimulus ultimately creates inflationary pressures. While economists argue over whether the current actions will have that kind of fallout in the United States, investors should acknowledge that they will hit home somewhere.
That’s because central banks around the globe are keeping the money flowing, and their economies aren’t all stable and sound.
None of this requires immediate portfolio changes. I expect a bear market within the next 10 years, but it would surprise me if it happened in the next 10 days, and maybe even over the next 10 months.
All of it requires developing a strategy — perhaps including alternative asset classes, an added emphasis on generating income and more — that can weather these events.
This will be the stuff that future presidential candidates will be talking about, blaming the other side for and claiming that they could avoid.
But the only way to stop this kind of recession and downturn from turning into a depression and a deep bear market is to make sure it doesn’t affect you.
Politicians can’t give you a defensive, all-weather strategy. They can’t save enough for you to build a sufficient nest egg. You have to do all of that important stuff on your own, for yourself.
Develop a strategy for those times now, before today’s worries become tomorrow’s headlines.