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Survey: 4 top tips to protect your portfolio against a recession (copy)

July 11, 2022 Updated Fri., July 15, 2022 at 4:19 p.m.

If you have a long time until you need to tap your retirement accounts, don't sweat a downturn in the market.  (Tribune News Service )
If you have a long time until you need to tap your retirement accounts, don't sweat a downturn in the market. (Tribune News Service )
By James Royal

With stocks plummeting and interest rates rising, many investors expect a recession in the near future.

So how can you prepare your portfolio for a possible downturn?

Bankrate’s Second-Quarter Market Mavens survey asked professional investors what you should do to protect your money and how to invest in the event that a recession does come to pass.

The stock market has been in a serious downturn this year, with major indexes such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 falling more than 20% and turning into a bear market.

Inflation hit 8.6% in May, and the Federal Reserve has been aggressively raising interest rates to help fight it.

Many investors expect rising rates to ultimately tip the economy into a recession.

“With central banks backing away from a prolonged period of record low interest rates and easy money, a variety of asset classes have been negatively affected, including stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst, Bankrate.

“We don’t know how long the pain may last, but history suggests it will end at some point.”

Despite these concerns, the pros surveyed by Bankrate expect the S&P 500 to climb in the year ahead, and they offered advice on how to position yourself to ride out a potential recession.

Best moves in a recession

Investors have been grappling with what the Fed’s actions and higher interest rates mean for stocks.

While some think that the Fed will raise rates too quickly and topple the economy into a recession, others think the Fed may engineer a “soft landing” and let the economy slow before ultimately continuing on to grow.

Here’s what the pros say you can do to protect your money.

Stay focusedIf you have a long time until you need to tap your retirement accounts, don’t sweat a downturn in the market.

Instead, it can be more valuable to think of it as an opportunity to buy.

Stay focused on your retirement accounts, and you’ll barely notice the blip in the market in a few years’ time.

“Remain calm and continue contributing to savings, IRAs and 401(k)s,” advises Michael Farr, CEO, Farr, Miller & Washington, a wealth management firm in Washington, D.C.

If you continue to invest during a downturn, you’re likely to buy investments at attractive prices, and perhaps as importantly, you’ll keep yourself from selling at an inopportune moment.

If you become frightened during a downturn or try to time the market, you can seriously derail your retirement accounts, costing you much more in future returns than you’d avoid in losses today.

Invest for long termThe experts continually focused on the importance of thinking and investing for the long term.

“Stocks are falling sharply on the fear of recession. That creates attractive long-term investment opportunities in quality companies,” said Patrick J. O’Hare, chief market analyst,

“This current moment isn’t an ‘all-in’ phase after the sharp declines, because we have yet to see earnings estimates adjust properly for the challenging economic period that lays ahead,” he said.

“That said, with stocks of quality companies down 30, 40, and 50% or more off their highs, this is a moment where one can start accumulating stocks in those companies.”

Other experts broadly agreed with that long-term sentiment.

“Stay fully invested consistent with long-term targets while looking for opportunities to add equities on additional weakness,” said Jeffrey Buchbinder, equity strategist, LPL Financial.

Meanwhile, Kim Forrest, chief investment officer and founder, Bokeh Capital Partners, said it even more tersely: “Invest for the longer term.”

Use dollar-cost averaging

If you’re regularly earning money and investing that into the market, you’re well-placed to ride out the current bear market and any downturn that occurs if the economy does hit a recession.

“Invest small and dollar-cost average,” said Jim Osman, founder, The Edge Spinoff Research. “We are not going anywhere fast anytime soon.”

Dollar-cost averaging is an investing technique where you spread out your purchases over time using a fixed amount of money.

For example, you might invest $100 in an index fund every week.

When the market falls, you’ll buy more shares and when it rises, you’ll buy fewer.

But over time you’ll buy at an average price, but neither the best price nor the worst price.

You’ll reduce the risk that you buy at too high a price and you’ll likely be buying when the market hits a low point.

You’ll avoid dumping your money in all at once when the market is high, and if you keep investing, you’re more likely to stay invested over time, helping your long-term returns.

O’Hare said it’s a great time for this technique.

“It is a moment where continued dollar-cost averaging should be embraced to maximize return potential in better years ahead.”

Maintain disciplineWhen the market falls, it can be easy to sell or deviate from your long-term investing strategy.

But if you have a strong long-term plan, then it’s more important than ever to stick with it.

“Maintain your investment plans – rebalance, tax-loss harvest where you can and continue dollar-cost averaging into your retirement plan vehicles,” said Kenneth Chavis IV, CFP, senior wealth manager, LourdMurray.

Rebalancing your portfolio involves selling some of the investments that have outperformed and moving that money into investments that have underperformed in order to bring your portfolio back to its target allocations.

Tax-loss harvesting is a practice where you sell losing investments to recoup a tax write-off, helping to reduce your taxes today or offset other gains.

And it’s important to keep your asset allocation aligned with your long-term goals, said Dec Mullarkey, managing director, SLC Management.

Asset allocation is how you divide your investments among various asset classes (stocks, bonds and even cash) to reduce risk and potentially increase returns.

For example, if you’ll need money in 20 years, you want to stay invested in assets such as stocks or stock funds that perform well over long periods of time.

“While recessions are inevitable, their timing and severity are hard to handicap,” said Mullarkey.

“Given how strong U.S. household and corporate balance sheets are, we are in a good position to tolerate potential growth setbacks and hopefully bounce back quickly.”

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