The performance of the economy has been disappointing, but not the recent performance of the stock market. It has performed as if there are no economic worries at all. Is it seeing things that are not captured in current statistics? Is it forecasting a recovery? The answers to these questions are not answerable. Yet it appears that a recovery is necessary to maintain current stock levels.
Adam Taggart provides a review of the case for improvement in the economy and one for continued deterioration. He believes the economy is unlikely to improve (a position I hold). Your view may be different. Mr. Taggart lays out two investing strategies for each of these outcomes:
Picking Your Side
Those taking the optimistic view here argue that our economic engine has been running hard to pull us out of the hole we've been in for the past five years. And now that we're back on level track, the engine's built-up head of steam is going to move us forward quickly.
Expect better GDP growth, lower unemployment, higher income, high stock prices, higher housing prices, more innovation, and lower energy prices.
If this future comes to pass, you won't want to be left in the dust as the party roars past. Get on the train – go long, perhaps with some leverage, and bet on America's grit and ingenuity.
To be frank, this has been the winning side for the past year and a half. Those who have sided with the bulls have been rewarded with sizable stock gains and stabilized (or growing) housing prices.
But if, on the other hand, you – like me – find enough reason in the data for doubting the optimistic case, you need to determine what your defensive plan should be.
The degree of defense you adopt should be based upon your own exploration of the data. Dig further than the samples I could only cursorily provide above. Come up with your own personal assessment of the probability and severity of the downside risks.
If you find you assess the risks at or above the 'moderate' level (which I do), then consider strongly the following guidance:
- Exchange paper assets for tangible ones. Acquire exposure to the precious metals; we recommend having at least 10% of your net worth in gold and silver (for those new to owning precious metals, you may want to read our buyer's guide). Above that, if possible, invest in productive hard assets. Holdings like farmland, timberland, energy deposits, and mineral/water rights are assets that will produce units that will generate an income for you.
- Find a sympatico adviser to manage any remaining paper wealth. For many reasons, most of us will still keep a percentage of our wealth in the stock and bond markets (in retirement/pension accounts, 529 plans, etc). If you're in the defensive camp, make sure the adviser managing your money is, too. There are several we endorse, but we're impartial about whether you work with them or not. The important point here is to work with the adviser whose outlook is most closely aligned with yours.
- Cultivate resiliency. Most Peak Prosperity readers are well-aware of our recommendations here. Start at the individual level to prepare both physically and emotionally so that whatever the future brings, your quality of life is as least impacted as possible.
- Cultivate community. Whatever your plans, a support network will help you achieve them better, and likely faster, too. Plus, it gives you the added insurance of assistance should your best-laid plans not play out as you expect them to (which happens frequently). Invest in fostering collaborative relationships in your neighborhood, or join existing communities relevant to your location or interests.
- Defend your income stream(s). Assess your employment situation – how vulnerable is your income? Explore ways to make yourself more valuable to your employer, add additional source(s) of income, and/or create your own business. Steady income makes challenging times much easier to bear by giving you the flexibility to explore different approaches that may work better for the new reality. Without that ability to absorb failure, your options are often much more limited.
If you take the above steps, regardless of what happens, you'll be able to sleep at night knowing that you've acted conscientiously according to your convictions. And in the event the bulls turn out to be 'right', few of these steps will serve you poorly. In a secular bull market, hard assets should still appreciate measurably. And personal and community resiliency is always a net positive, regardless of the economic environment.
But if the bulls turn out to be the ones in error, the value of these actions could be priceless.
So get to it. Do your own personal calculus of the risks. Determine where you need to be positioned. And take the necessary steps to get well-situated where you assess you need to be.
It's time to choose a side.
Any investor wrestling with these issues, and all should be, should read Mr. Taggart's complete article.