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Investing in Uncertain Times


By Heidi Huiskamp, Founder and CEO of Huiskamp Collins Investments, LLC

A global pandemic, high unemployment, worldwide protests, a Presidential election year: 2020 will go down in the history books as a year packed with uncertainty to rival those in most scholars’ memories. As consumers, it’s tempting to give in to fear, go to cash, and wait for the tides to turn. History has shown, though, that the most successful long-term investors rise above the fear, carefully evaluate the plan they have in place, make minor tweaks if necessary and keep the faith. Checking your account value too often during times of market volatility is a recipe for disaster for most. I counsel nervous investors to throw their unopened statements in a drawer, turn off the market scroll of CNBC, and go for a walk. Human anxiety triggers our “fight or flight” reaction which too often causes investors to sell at the bottom and then lose out on market gains by never getting back into the market or doing so at the top, defeating the premise of “buy low, sell high.” I have been an advisor for many years and investors who tried to “time the market” have never been successful. No one knows the exact right time to sell and the exact right time to buy. Please don’t believe anyone who tells you they do.

Your wealth can be held as three different types of assets: stocks, bonds, and cash. An important consideration for every investor is to clearly evaluate their goals and their tolerance for risk and make an informed decision, with or without a professional advisor, as to how their wealth should be allocated to each of the asset classes. No asset class is good or bad; they each serve a necessary purpose in a well-diversified portfolio. Stocks seek to give investors long-term purchasing power. Stocks are inherently riskier than the other two asset classes, but potentially offer a higher return, historically. If you are investing for a potential 30 year retirement, it might be vital that some portion of your portfolio be allocated to assets whose growth potential might outpace inflation and allow you the money to fund your retirement many years down the road. Bonds may outperform stocks at some points in a normal economic cycle and provide stability, though their historic returns are lower than stocks. Too many times, though, investors believe that bonds cannot go down in value. This is false. Do your homework or work with a financial professional to make an informed decision about how much of your portfolio to allocate to bonds and to what kinds of bonds as there are many types, each with their own risks and rewards. Cash is checking accounts, savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit (C.D.s). Most cash accounts held at banks are federally-insured by the F.D.I.C. up to legal limitations. If a bank fails, you will be able to recoup the value of a federally-insured account up to the legal limit. Your “purchasing power” is not ensured, though. The Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates to historic lows in an effort to spur the economy, so interest rates on bank accounts and C.D.s are dismal. If your C.D. is paying 1.00%, inflation in 2.00% and you have to pay taxes on your interest, you are actually “going in the hole.” At the end of the day, though, an investor’s highest priority is the assurance that she or he can sleep at night, so holding a given amount in cash may be of paramount importance. Even though I am a very experienced investor and have a high risk tolerance, holding cash equal to six months living expenses in an “emergency fund” is a prudent practice that I have long held and recommended to my clients as well.

During times of uncertainty, I get a lot of questions about buying gold. Some people advocate buying gold coins and then there are mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in gold and other precious metals. I have been an active investor for over 40 years and don’t invest in gold. I consulted Investopedia in order to catalogue average returns for different asset classes over the last 100 years. Over that time frame, stocks have, on average, returned seven to eight percent, bonds three to four percent and gold two and a half percent. If you factor in an average inflation rate of three percent over that time, the far-reaching lesson is that gold doesn’t perform as well as other asset classes over the long-term. Again, everyone’s situation is different.

If you are looking for a new investment professional during times of uncertainty, please, please do your homework. Interview more than one advisor to find a good fit with someone with whom you feel a bond of trust. Ask lots of questions. Determine if that professional is a fiduciary who is always going to put your best interests first. Ask pointed questions so you understand exactly how your advisor will be paid. Hold out for someone who speaks in plain English and doesn’t try to razzle-dazzle you with big words and industry jargon.

I’ve been a fiduciary for 20 years and would love to work with you!  Please contact me at 563-949-4705 or at heidi@hhcinvestments.net for a complementary consultation.