Every type of investment comes with risks. However, there are many steps you can take to insulate your investments against market volatility. Here are seven ways you can protect your retirement savings and portfolio before a recession.
7 Things You Can Do To Protect Your Portfolio Before a Recession
1. Accept the fact that recessions happen.
No matter how well you plan, you can never escape risk. Market volatility is an inherent part of investing. So, periodic crashes are just the nature of the beast. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there has been a market recession every ten years (sometimes more frequently) since 1858.
It can be tough to ride out the highs and the lows of the stock market. However, you have to accept that every few years, the market will inevitably dive. These are natural, self-correcting mechanisms that counteract long periods of market gains. But, the ebb and flow of the market mean it will stabilize eventually. Although you can’t predict when it will happen, you can monitor signs and prepare for it.
2. Know your risk tolerance.
Before you even make your first investment, you must know what level your risk tolerance is. This varies for every investor based on their financial goals, job security, timeline, and general attitude towards money. Therefore, every brokerage and financial advisor will ask you to complete a questionnaire to help you determine what type of strategy works best for you.
The type of investments you choose depends on your risk tolerance. People tend to become more conservative as they near retirement age since they have less time to recover from losses. However, if you already have a conservative approach or find it difficult to stomach drastic market fluctuations, it may be better to go with investments like bonds, real estate, and large-cap stocks that are less volatile.
3. Keep an eye on the bigger picture.
One of the most common mistakes amateur investors make is trying to time the market. Don’t waste your energy or capital trying to time different sectors. Instead, keep an eye on the bigger picture and stay with your long-term strategy. It can be hard to ignore the daily rises and falls, but don’t get distracted by the latest trends. Remind yourself why you chose your specific investments.
When you see large fluctuations, you must regulate your emotions. The last thing you should do is panic and make impulsive decisions about your portfolio. The more practical solution is to create a strategy to scale back your risk. If you try to micromanage your portfolio, it could cost you even more.
Most financial advisors will tell you to ride it out so you don’t lock in the losses. Then you will have the chance to recover. History has shown that people who hold their investments through a recession have portfolios that almost always recuperate their losses. Trying to outrun a bear market usually results in people selling their shares and then rebuying them later at much higher prices
4. Diversification is key to surviving a recession.
Although diversification is a common strategy, it shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued. It is one of the most important methods to protect your investments on the brink of a recession. When you put your eggs in many different baskets, the gains in thriving markets will offset any losses other industries are experiencing.
When you diversify your portfolio, not only should you maintain different kinds of investments, but also investments in various industries, companies of different sizes, and multiple geographic locations. Time and again, it has proven to be a good way to ensure your portfolio stays balanced and profitable, even during a recession. You may need to do this yourself, or you can choose funds that automatically diversify your investments for you.
5. Evaluate and rebalance your portfolio.
While it is wise to evaluate and rebalance your portfolio regularly, it is even more important before an economic downturn. Look at the composition of your portfolio and decide if you need to reallocate funds to protect your portfolio before a recession.
The traditional model of 70/30 where 70% is invested in stocks, 30% in bonds works for most investors. However, other investors opt for a different strategy of 50/20/30 where they invest 50% in stocks, 20% in bonds, and the remaining 30% in real estate. It offers greater diversification and security when the market dips.
You can also limit your exposure by selling riskier assets. At the first signs of a recession, herd instincts are to get out of the equities market completely. But, if you do this, you will miss some valuable opportunities. Therefore, fixed-income investments are usually a better option for more risk-averse investors. U.S. treasury bonds, utilities, consumer staples, commodities, and companies with a long, established history are more likely to weather a recession. Dividend-paying stocks will also guarantee steady cash flow and offer more stability through economic downturns.
6. Invest your money in uncorrelated markets.
Another way to protect your portfolio before a recession is to invest in uncorrelated markets. Look for commodities or assets that don’t fluctuate in tandem with the stock market. This is a great way to hedge your bets and help your portfolio remain profitable even during a recession. Uncorrelated markets, such as real estate, hold their value over time. So, you will be able to maintain consistent returns even when several sectors are suffering losses.
7. Be open to new opportunities.
Although your instincts may tell you not to invest during a recession, making regular contributions will help you continue to build towards your retirement goals. Just because your portfolio is less profitable doesn’t mean you should stop investing.
The silver lining of a bear market is that market crashes can also bring new investment opportunities. Even if share prices drop, they will likely recover over time. If you are in a stable position, buying on the dip could turn you a huge profit. If you choose the right stock options, you are setting yourself up for success when the market rebounds.
There is no way to time it perfectly, and prices could continue to drop. Therefore, you should set an investing threshold so you know your limits and how much capital you are willing to gamble with.
Sticking with Your Strategy
Ultimately, nothing is recession-proof. Even when people claim to have the market beat, ignore the hype and do your research. Most importantly, resist the urge to try to time your investments to beat the market. There is no magic, crystal ball. Focus on the long-term and stick to your investment strategy. If you have any questions about how to limit your exposure to minimize risks, discuss your options with your financial advisor.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.