High-net worth individuals are not immune to concerns around economic slowdowns. 2Q Advance GDP numbers were announced on Thursday, July 28th reporting a downside surprise of -0.9% vs. the consensus of +0.4%. This reading marked the second consecutive quarter of declining growth and has confirmed what many pundits would refer to as a technical recession in the U.S.
But are all recessions the same? Not quite.
The current U.S. economy features an unusual combination of high inflation, a tight labor market and relatively strong consumer balance sheets. The slowdown this year is a result of the above-trend growth we saw in 2021 of 5.7%, due to the massive fiscal and monetary policy responses to the pandemic. We are now slowing and reverting to more “normal” and perhaps below-trend economic growth, while the economy continues to grapple with stubbornly high inflation and supply/demand imbalances. The key question from here is how shallow or deep does the slowdown become. In our view, the labor market would have to soften substantially to cause a deep recession.
Further, the Federal Reserve has strongly committed to combating the highest price inflation in 40 years by raising interest rates and experimenting with quantitative tightening. This confluence of events has resulted in tighter financial conditions and significant devaluation of risk assets globally.
The good news? The market is a forward-looking discounting mechanism that we believe has discounted much of the bad news we might see this year. That said, the macro environment remains uncertain and short-term volatility is likely to persist, as we get more clarity on the path for inflation, central bank policy and corporate earnings the second half of this year.
Make no mistake - the first half of this year has been painful for most investors and will go down as one of the worst starts for stock and bond markets in history. That said, it has also presented unique opportunities for long-term investors to rebalance, invest in high-quality secular growth businesses at attractive valuations and increase yield and quality cash flow in your portfolio.
Click on the sections below for strategies associated with investing and financial planning.
One effective strategy in a bear market is tax-loss harvesting. This strategy realizes losses today that can be offset against future capital gains. Tax-loss harvesting is particularly effective for individuals who’ve just had a liquidity event and will pay large federal tax liabilities next year. These tax-losses work to mitigate those future liabilities.
Another way to diversify your risk is with alternative investments. Alternatives are generally less correlated to broader stock and bond markets and have exhibited less volatility over time, serving as the ballast of a high-net worth investor’s portfolio. A few strategies that have been successful in protecting capital this year have been long/short equity, multi-strategy, relative value fixed income, private real estate and private equity.
Additionally, there are numerous opportunities in the equity market to buy high-quality growth compounders. These are companies that trade at below historical average price/FCF multiples and have higher EBIT margins and revenue growth than the broader market. These high-quality companies have been sold off in tandem with much lower-quality companies and now present attractive opportunities to invest at much lower valuations.
Within fixed income, there has been a meaningful pick-up in yields across taxable and tax-exempt bonds this year. There has been modest spread widening on recession fears recently, creating good entry points into select investments in investment grade and high yield credit. Should an economic recession be shallower and more balanced, these select investments should produce attractive risk-adjusted returns.
Lastly, an asset class that has re-emerged is cash. Money market funds are now yielding 1.5% or more, as the Federal Reserve has taken fed funds to 2.25-2.50% through the July meeting. This rise in the Fed Funds rate has benefited money market funds and now serve as sensible place for investors to get paid on excess cash.
Now more than ever is a critical time to create a financial plan or update an existing plan. Among the many benefits of a financial plan is the ability to “stress test” your financial situation for uncertain events, such as inflation, market downturns, health care events, long-term care events and other factors that may impact your plan.
Using a financial planning tool known as Monte Carlo, your financial planner can include assumptions that take into account, for example, the impact on your financial situation if inflation remains at current rates, increases further or decreases. Many current financial plans built without Monte Carlo have held inflation steady at rates experienced prior to 2022, meaning that the client’s purchasing power is significantly understated with current prices. This type of planning gives you added assurances that you are on the right track, despite outcomes outside of your control.
Similarly, now is the time to re-evaluate your estate plan, or create one if you don’t already have one. Between the pandemic, the economic slowdown, the situation in Ukraine, market fluctuations and inflation, among other likely concerns, you’ve likely had time (and reason) to rethink your goals and objectives. At its simplest, estate planning is about getting the right assets to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way. Updating or creating your estate plan ensures that you can accomplish what’s important in this time of uncertainty. In addition, with interest rates rising quickly, you may be able to take advantage of estate planning strategies that benefit from lower interest rates. This is yet another reason to act quickly.
Baker Tilly Wealth Management, LLC (BTWM) is a registered investment advisor. BTWM does not provide tax or legal advice. BTWM is not an attorney. Estate planning can involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. Consider consulting a tax or legal professional about your particular circumstances before implementing any tax or legal strategy. The information provided here is of a general nature and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any individual or entity. In specific circumstances, the services of a professional should be sought. Securities, when offered, and transaction advisory services are offered through Baker Tilly Capital, LLC, Member FINRA and SIPC; Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction located at 4807 Innovate Ln., Madison, WI 53718; phone: +1 (800) 362 7301. Baker Tilly Wealth Management, LLC and Baker Tilly Capital, LLC are controlled by Baker Tilly US, LLP. Baker Tilly US, LLP, is an independently owned and managed member of Baker Tilly International. © 2022 Baker Tilly Wealth Management, LLC