When you invest, no matter the larger economic conditions, you always want to ensure you’re diversifying your portfolio.
This is a concept that major corporations and wealthy people understand well. For example, corporations like UBS invest in blue-chip art. Many of these banks and global companies have full-time curators for their collections in order to diversify their investments.
While you may not be a multimillionaire or a global bank, the principles of diversification are critical to a good investment strategy. Your approach may also need some tweaking during periods of high inflation, like what we’re in now.
The following are things to know generally about inflation and how it might affect your investment strategy and approach to diversification.
An Overview of Diversification
A diversified portfolio is one with a broad mix of different types of investments. The longstanding wisdom was a 60/40 portfolio where you allocated 60% of your capital to invest in stocks, then 40% of your portfolio went to fixed-income investments, such as bonds.
There are opponents of this approach who feel there should be more stock exposure, particularly for younger people.
Overall, with a diversified portfolio, you might hold a wide variety of healthcare, energy, and tech stocks, as well as some from other industries. You don’t need exposure to every sector, but you should have a pretty varied portfolio made up of a healthy mix of quality companies.
You also want to have a combination of divided, large-cap, small-cap, growth, and value stocks.
Then, in addition to diversification in your stock portfolio, you want investments included in the mix that aren’t correlated. That means these investments don’t go up and down with the stock market.
Crypto, art, gold, bonds, bank CDs, and real estate are all examples of non-correlated investments.
What to Know About Inflation
Inflation is an increase in the overall price of goods and services. Inflation is measured as an annual percentage increase. The annual percentage increase is reported in the Consumer Price Index or CPI, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics prepares monthly. When inflation goes up, purchasing power goes down.
The rise of inflation affected fixed-asset values, and companies will raise their prices to compensate for their own rising costs.
As a consumer, you’re paying more across the board for goods and services. If you have certain assets, like a house, inflation can be a good thing. Your income may also rise, although maybe not enough to keep up with inflation.
Inflation increases the cost of living, and if it gets too high, it harms the economy.
The effects on the economy largely depend on the type of inflation. Walking inflation ranges from 3-10% a year while creeping inflation isn’t as dramatic. Running inflation indicates very aggressive pricing increases that might be leading to hyperinflation.
Rising prices might indicate the economy is growing very quickly. People then tend to stockpile and overbuy because they want to avoid future higher prices, and suppliers can’t keep up with demand, nor can wages. Everyday goods and services could be out of reach for many people in situations with severe inflation.
Inflation doesn’t always have to affect everything in the same ways. For example, during the financial crisis of 2008, home prices went down almost 20%, but gas prices doubled.
Mild inflation can be good for the economy because consumer spending is propelling economic growth.
The Federal Reserve sets an inflation target, with a healthy core inflation rate considered around 2%, taking out the impact of energy and food prices.
Other specific effects of inflation can include:
- Inflation can have negative effects on retirement planning. The amount you target to save has to go up in order to pay for the same quality of life. Basically, your savings is going to buy you less over time. You have to start saving as soon as possible for retirement to utilize compounding interest, and you should use other strategies as well to hedge against inflation’s effects.
- Treasury bonds are fixed-income assets that pay the same every year. If inflation goes up faster than the return on this asset, they’re less valuable. People will then try to sell them in response, bringing down their value further. The U.S. government has to issue higher Treasury yields to sell them, so mortgage interest rates often go up as a result. Higher rates lower the value of your investment, and the interest on national debt rises.
- If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, inflation can be beneficial. The value of the monthly payments you make on your mortgage goes down over time.
- If you have debt with a variable interest rate, you’re probably going to see that your minimum payments go up as inflation increases. This is most often the case with high interest credit cards but can apply to mortgages with a variable rate.
- If you’re trying to buy a house, inflation has negative effects because their prices will typically rise along with inflation.
How Do You Invest to Protect Against Inflation?
When you’re an investor, you have to think about the best ways to hedge against inflation. You can plan for it by investing in asset classes that outperform the market during times of high inflation.
The following are particular investments to consider to protect against inflation:
When you invest in art, it is a good hedge against inflation, and it also diversifies your portfolio and reduces volatility.
Many investors assume they’re not wealthy enough to get involved in the art marketplace. In reality, it can be accessible for anyone.
There are even new platforms that allow investors to own a piece of blue-chip art, much like an ETF.
Art is an asset class not correlated to other major asset classes, so this means if you have traditional assets like stocks or bonds that aren’t doing well, your art investments are more likely to hold their value.
Since art can be a physical asset, it tends to do well in inflationary periods.
Of course, any investment carries risks, but unlike equities which are sensitive to movements in the market, the art market as a whole has been growing steadily.
There are downsides you have to think about, like the lack of liquidity. Selling a piece of art can be time-consuming, which is why options that allow you to buy fractional shares are appealing, in addition to the lower point of entry.
Gold can serve as a hedge against inflation, and some describe it as an alternative currency, especially in places where the value of the native currency is declining.
Gold is a physical asset that largely tends to hold its value.
If you want to invest in gold to protect against inflation, you have three primary options. You can buy the physical asset, meaning you buy actual gold. You can buy shares of an ETF or mutual fund that follows the price of gold, or you can trade in the commodities market. Trading futures and options in the commodities market is usually left best to highly experienced investors.
While gold is an option, it’s not a perfect inflation hedge. For example, when inflation goes up, central banks will usually raise interest rates. If you have gold, it doesn’t pay a yield, so it’s not going to have as much value as an asset that does, especially when rates are higher.
Commodities are a category including things like grain, electricity, oil, beef, orange juice, and natural gas. Commodities also include foreign currencies and financial instruments.
Commodities are an indicator of future inflation, so as their price goes up, so does the price of the products it’s used to produce.
You can invest in commodities through an ETF.
They’re very volatile and highly dependent on supply and demand, so it’s best suited to more sophisticated investors.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
A REIT is a company that owns and also operates real estate-producing income. When inflation rises, property prices and rental rates tend to go up. When you invest in a REIT, it’s a pool of real estate. As an investor, you’re paid dividends.
REITs can be good to include in your portfolio, particularly during inflationary periods, but they can come with some downsides. For example, when interest rates go up, Treasury securities become more appealing, taking funds out of REITs. REITs also have to pay property taxes, which can be as much as 25% of operating expenses.
Finally, investing in real estate can, in some cases, be a hedge against inflation. You can earn income by renting out a property because, as we’ve touched on, when inflation goes up, typically so do property values. That means if you’re a landlord, you may be able to charge more for rent.
You can keep up with rising inflation.
Of course, this isn’t a guarantee, and real estate isn’t liquid. Plus, if you buy a property, it’s going to require maintenance, and the costs can add up fast.
The best thing you can do when it comes to investing during inflation is to think about your goals and the direction you’d like to take and make sure you have a good mix making up your portfolio.0