Welcome to Select’s advice column, Getting Your Money Right, where financial advisor Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick will be answering your pressing money questions. You can read her last installment here on whether to invest in bonds when interest rates are high. Have a question you want to ask? Send us a note at AskSelect@nbcuni.com.
I am completely confused by the markets these days. They are volatile, good news seems to be bad news, bad news is good news — everything seems to be defying the textbooks. Can you shed some light on this and give me thoughts on the year ahead?
Confused in Colorado
You are not alone, my friend. Many people, including portfolio managers and economists, are just as lost as you are. After wading through the market meltdown of 2022, it feels like we deserve a rally and some peace!
As we all know, 2022 was a year for the history books. Asset markets (both liquid and illiquid) sold off across the board on fears of a recession. This included stocks, bonds, crypto, NFTs, art and classic cars. A recession became a reality when the Federal Reserve started aggressively hiking rates to combat inflation. These rate hikes have continued into 2023, with the Fed deciding on Feb.1 to raise rates by another 25 basis points and leaving the door open for future hikes.
All that said, this doesn’t mean assets will continue to fall. In fact, January was a particularly good month for stocks and bonds.
Why the rally? First, many would argue that stocks were oversold by the end of 2022. Lots of investors have started this year with cash to spend and are looking to buy stocks that are “cheap”. Cheap means different things to different people, but betting on stocks that fell 40-70% last year could be considered a sensible thing to do.
Some would argue that January’s rally was a “dash for trash” (which sounds like a fun T-shirt). But what it means is that investors bought the stocks that got the most beat up in 2022 and didn’t buy stocks based on fundamentals.
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We are dealing with one main issue which is creating other problems — inflation. Policymakers are hiking rates in order to bring down prices. But high interest rates spook investors.
Everyone wants to know when the hiking will stop. Nobody knows when that will happen, but the market has priced in several more hikes. If the Fed decides to raise rates more than what we are predicting, this will not bode well for markets. Under these conditions, we unfortunately will continue to see extremely volatile markets.
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Whenever one is trying to ponder investor behavior, it’s key to remember that markets like consistency. If you throw a lot of surprises at the market, it won’t behave. Thus far, 2023 has been a wild ride. The week of Jan. 31 was just the 23rd week since 1953 that the S&P 500 was up or down at least 1% on all five sessions of a full trading week.
It’s rather ridiculous to see stocks move this much. We need some calm. We need some assurances. We need lower inflation. Until we have these things, markets will be difficult.
My advice is to take slow, steady and calculated risks. Don’t buy a stock because it’s cheap. Buy it because it is a good company. Or look to invest in the market as a whole with an index fund [added]. Don’t load back up on crypto because your beep bop boop coin (I made that up) has gone to zero.
If you don’t want to buy stocks, then look for yield. You could buy treasury bonds or even park cash in a high-yield savings account and earn over 4% APY, like with UFB Best Savings. Just do something though. Remember that when inflation is running at 6% per year and your money is earning you nothing, you are losing 6%.
UFB Best Savings
UFB Best Savings is a Member FDIC.
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Earn up to 4.21% APY
No max number of transactions; Max transfer amounts may apply
Excessive transactions fee
Overdraft fees may be charged, according to the terms, but a specific amount is not specified; overdraft protection service available
Offer checking account?
Offer ATM card?
If you’re ready to take action in the market, you could go with a brokerage like Vanguard or E*TRADE that won’t charge you commissions or fees. You can also use a robo-advisor like Betterment to build and manage a portfolio tailored to your risk tolerance.
Hope this helps!
Stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, CDs
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- $20 annual fee for IRAs and brokerage accounts, though investors can waive this fee by opting into paperless statements
- Basic trading platform only
- No robust research and data tools
$0 commissions for online stocks, ETFs, options, and some mutual funds
Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, and futures
- Robust and extensive research and educational tools for many types of investors
- Wide variety of customer support channels
- Plentiful investment choices
- Website may be cumbersome to wade through
- No forex trading
- Robo-advisor charges an advisory fee
Minimum deposit and balance
Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, Betterment doesn’t require clients to maintain a minimum investment account balance, but there is a ACH deposit minimum of $10. Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance.
Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For Betterment Digital Investing, 0.25% of your fund balance as an annual account fee; Premium Investing has a 0.40% annual fee
Up to $5,000 managed free for a year with a qualifying deposit within 45 days of signup. Valid only for new individual investment accounts with Betterment LLC
Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash
Betterment offers retirement and other education materials
Terms apply. Does not apply to crypto asset portfolios.
Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick is a Financial Advisor and money expert at her family-run firm, O’Keeffe Financial Partners, located in Fairfield, NJ.
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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.