The coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on investing – and on investors – but exactly how that’s playing out isn’t entirely certain. But just as is the case in any type of investment environment, it’s best to not try to outguess the market.
Instead, concentrate on building an investment strategy during COVID-19 that will get you through the worst the pandemic can throw at us.
Why is investing different during COVID-19
I can boil this question down to one word: uncertainty. It’s not just what you feel as an individual either, but a collective sense. It’s often been said that COVID-19 is both a health crisis and an economic one. That makes it different from any human crisis in the past 100 years. Against that backdrop, uncertainty is a natural outcome.
Not only do we not know the human toll the virus will take, or when a cure will be available, but there’s no way to predict what type of economic disruptions will accompany it, or how severe they’ll be. That has a profound impact on investing.
Undoubtedly, investing has always been most effective – and stress-free – during times of stability. Growth requires a generous amount of predictability, and that’s exactly what’s in short supply right now. But that’s why it’s important to remind ourselves that this crisis, like every other that’s come before it, will ultimately be temporary.
How do you invest right now?
The most anyone can do is develop the best investment strategy based on what you know now, and prepare to ride out the crisis.
More than anything else, that means being more conservative than you might have been a couple of years ago. For example, this is probably not a good time to be 100% invested in stocks. But it’s still an excellent time to have most of your money in stocks, and a smaller percentage in safe investments, like bonds and high-interest savings.
That kind of portfolio allocation won’t completely protect you if stocks take a major dive, but it will minimize the damage. It will also leave you with plenty of capital to begin buying up bargains if stocks do take a major fall.
Meanwhile, it’s best to arrange your portfolio and your accounts in a way that will fit comfortably within your investment goals and risk tolerance.
On a day-to-day basis, take full advantage of dollar-cost averaging.
“During the post-COVID economic crisis, I encourage investors to have courage,”recommends Matthew Jackson, Investment Adviser Representative at Solid Wealth Advisors, LLC, in Fort Collins, Colorado, and co-founder of 401(k) Maneuver, a professional account management service to help employees grow and protect their 401(k) accounts.
He says “For workplace retirement account participants (401(a), 401(k), 403(b), 457 & TSP), continue to contribute to your plans. Dollar-cost averaging is your friend, involving systematic contributions made at regular intervals.”
“For example, you contribute $250 per pay period to your 401(k). Each pay period, you are then purchasing $250 worth of investments. Sometimes you buy when the cost is high. However, in times like the end of March, you are buying when costs are very low, so you get more for your money. Over time, this can help the growth of your account significantly. Don’t be a trader and get in and out of the market on a day to day or week to week basis. Stay the course. Your courage will be rewarded.”
“120 minus your age”
Realistically, there is no magic portfolio allocation for building an investment strategy during COVID-19. You can use the same allocation in the midst of the pandemic crisis that you would have used before – and should use after.
Probably the single most common portfolio strategy is what’s known as 120 minus your age.
Simply put, you subtract your current age from 120. It’s just a convention that will help you create the right mix of stocks and bonds, based solely on your age. You can use it as a starting point, then make adjustments based on your risk tolerance, investment time horizon, and other factors.
It works like this: if you are 30 years old, you’ll subtract 30 from 120, which leaves 90. That means 90% of your portfolio should be invested in stocks, and 10% in bonds and cash.
If you’re 35 years old, you’ll subtract 35 from 120, which leaves 85. That means 85% of your portfolio should be invested in stocks, and 15% in cash and bonds.
As you can see, the stock percentage declines as you get older – which is exactly the way portfolio allocations should work. As you get older, and closer to retirement, there’s less time to recover from major market declines. 120 minus your age accommodates this necessary shift, which largely explains why it’s so popular.
And because it’s a very long-term investment strategy, it’s one that should be used during good times and bad, and even during pandemics.
Advice from an investment expert
Barbara A. Friedberg, investing expert and CEO of Robo-Advisor Pros offers the following advice on investing during COVID-19:
“Before you invest any money in the financial markets, it’s important to make sure you won’t need the money within the next three to five years. That’s because investing in the stock market, although quite profitable over the long term, involves greater risk during shorter periods. (You might lose part of your investment dollars in the short term).
In most cases, I advocate a simple dollar-cost averaging or regular investing plan where you take a set amount of money every month and you invest in a diversified index fund or two. That way you buy more shares when prices are lower and fewer as stock prices rise. This is a great plan during all types of markets and works to lower your overall investment costs.
That said, the current market is rather expensive now, so, if you’re a bit of a risk taker, you might want to hold out some cash today. That way, when the next market drop occurs, you’ll have more money available to invest in cheaper funds and investments. Typically, greater profits are made by investors when they invest during and after a stock market decline.”
Should you even invest in this market?
There’s no question COVID-19 has raised uncertainty to a level that hasn’t gripped the world in decades. But there’s one thing to know for sure, and that’s that long-term investing has proven to be a winning strategy throughout human history.
While we’re caught up in the understandable confusion over COVID-19, it’s worth remembering that the stock market has produced an annual average rate of return of 10% going all the way back to 1926, based on the S&P 500.
During that time, there was the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Energy Crisis and inflation of the 1970s, the Dot-com Bust of 2000, and the Financial Meltdown of 2008. True, stocks took a big hit during most of those events, as did most financial assets. But after each, it bounced back, and usually with astonishing speed.
The moral of the story is that you can never try to time the market, no matter what’s happening at the moment. If you bailed out of investing during the worst of any of the earlier crises, you would have missed out on the rapid recoveries that followed each.
Whenever there’s been a major crisis, it’s always been easy to see the oncoming headlights of disaster. But what was never as obvious is the rapid recovery that happened soon after. That’s why it’s important to invest in all kinds of markets, including now in the face of COVID-19.
You’re not investing for the disaster at hand, but rather for the returns that will come when it ends. And it will end, at a time that will be just as unpredictable as the pandemic itself.
Best firms to invest with during COVID-19
There certainly is no one best firm for everyone to invest with, especially during COVID-19. But at the same time, it’s important to find the investment firm or service that will work best for your personal circumstances, goals, and preferences.
Below are four investment firms that should work well for most investors during COVID-19.
J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing –Get up to $700 when you open and fund with qualifying new money.
Whether you are new to investing, or an old pro, J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing has a lot to offer you. If you are like many people these days, you may be low on funds, but that doesn’t have to stop you from growing your financial future. With J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, you can get started on your investment journey with no minimum investment. And depending on the investing experience that you choose, you could find yourself paying fees as low as 0.35% (for J.P. Morgan Automated Investing).
One of the best parts about J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is the strong name behind their platform – J.P Morgan. A well-known name in the investing world, and for good reason, investing with J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing can be done with true peace of mind.Disclosure – INVESTMENT AND INSURANCE PRODUCTS ARE: NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • NO BANK GUARANTEE • MAY LOSE VALUE
Not everyone has the time or the willingness to manage their own portfolio, especially during a time of potential turmoil that a global pandemic can create. If so, Betterment can be a good investment choice. As a robo-advisor, it will not only design a portfolio that’s consistent with your investor profile but will also manage it for you going forward. All you need to do is fund your account, and Betterment will handle all the management details.
What’s more, they’ll do it all for a very low annual management fee of just 0.25% of your account value. That means you can have a $10,000 account professionally managed for just $25 per year, or $100,000 for only $250.
There are dozens of robo-advisors available today, but Betterment was the first. And they have a long history of consistently innovating and improving their product.
blooom specializes in managing retirement plans. In fact, that’s all they do. Like many other robo-advisors, they provide complete investment management of self-directed IRA accounts. But what makes them stand out from the crowd is that they are currently the only robo-advisor that manages employer-sponsored retirement plans. That includes not only 401(k) plans, but also 403(b), 457, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). And they do it all for a very low fee of just $10 per month.
You won’t need your employer’s consent to use blooom either. You can sign up for the service and it will manage your account with no need to take custody of the plan.
If you’re like many people, your employer-sponsored retirement plan is your single largest financial asset account. If you’re concerned about how to manage it properly – especially in the face of COVID-19 – blooom can get the job done for you, so you can rest easy.
Public is a real-time investing platform that makes investing easy, inexpensive, and attainable for everyone. With no commission fees, you can invest more of your money and focus on earning larger returns. With over 5,000 different stocks to choose from, Public gives investors the ability to truly diversify their portfolio.
One of the most helpful features of their platform is their instant fractional shares. These are great for people who are low on cash during COVID-19, but still want to continue reaching towards their investment goals. By breaking more expensive stocks into smaller, more budget-friendly, shares, you can diversify your portfolio with some of the most well-performing stocks on the market.
Perhaps more than anything else, what’s needed to invest in a crisis – even COVID-19 – is courage. There’s no doubt that the certainty that existed just at the beginning of 2020 has largely evaporated. And as quickly as events have played out, it’s easy to see why.
But a big part of courage is having confidence in the future. While you can’t know exactly what the future holds, there is solid guidance in the past. The world has experienced several crises of similar magnitude, with each causing millions to believe we might never recover. But after each crisis, recovery did happen.
That’s why all of us need to have confidence in right now. Not the events surrounding COVID-19, but the recovery that’s sure to follow. When it does come, it’s (hopefully) likely to be incredibly quick.
There won’t be time to react, and that’s why you’ll need to have your investments pre-positioned for the recovery. That means now is an excellent time to put your fears into perspective, choose the right investment platform, develop a portfolio that will work for you, and await for that better future. It’ll come when we least expect it.