Recently I was chatting with a longtime client about the current state of the stock market, as in, not good. They told me that, after many decades of investing, they were no longer having fun. This struck me as unsurprising given the continuous downdrafts the market has been experiencing of late. However, it was an interesting way to think about investing in the first place – ‘fun’. Perhaps because investing is work for me, I don’t think about investing as fun, like I do biking or skiing. Of course, working with our clients is gratifying, but when you experience the unpredictability and volatility of markets daily, fun may no longer be an apt description.
Speaking of unpredictable and volatile, 2022 has been both, and definitely no fun. At the close of the third quarter, September 30, the stock market notched its (so far?) low point for the year. With virtually all stock benchmarks down more than twenty percent apiece, there has been no place to hide for investors. Bonds? Safe? Not this year, as the Bloomberg US bond aggregate closed the quarter down 14.61% year to date (Source: Bloomberg Bond Aggregate). Commodities? Real estate? Cryptocurrency? Down, down, down.
What do we do? Bail out of everything? Hold cash until things look rosier? Perhaps until the Federal Reserve decides to stop increasing interest rates, or go back in when retail sales look set to rebound, or when inventories drop again? Those who read this newsletter regularly already know the answer. But for those who don’t frequent these pages, the answer is already written, in the market’s performance in the first two trading days of the fourth quarter. As I write this letter in the middle of the second day, I am watching the S&P 500 gain 5.7% over the two days (Source: S&P Global). Up? During all this doom and gloom? For markets, it is often darkest before the dawn, but unlike day and night, when the light comes back is unpredictable. The increase in interest rates over the past year has created somewhat of a silver lining in this volatile market for investors who own bonds due to the potential to enhance their cash flows and total returns.
While markets remain out of our direct command, the end of the year coming up presents opportunities that we can control. For those of you who are saving for children and grandchildren, making use of the annual gift exclusion can be valuable. This allows a maximum gift of sixteen-thousand-dollars per person, which means a married couple can give up to thirty-two thousand dollars combined. Gifts to 529 plans may provide opportunities for couples to save on capital gains taxes if and when the funds are used for education. For young kids, these benefits can be significant. These ‘annual’ gift exclusions expire at the end of the calendar year, so it is a ‘use it-or-lose it’ benefit. Another item is IRA and Roth IRA contributions. While these contributions can be extended to April, 2023 it may be worth looking at now given the market volatility. Lastly, if you are a corporate worker, open enrollment season is coming, we are available to discuss which optional benefits are the best suited for you.
Finally, you will potentially notice some movement in your portfolios over the next few months. Part of this is us taking tax-losses on your behalf, if they are applicable, and part is us resetting allocations in accordance with your stated financial objectives and time horizon. In the near-term, our goals are to prepare you to successfully go forward in the new ‘normal’ within the wonderful and fun world of investing. Please call with any questions or if anything changes in your financial situation or to discuss changes you are contemplating.
Scott Lasky, CFP™
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