It feels like each of the past three years have ended with an exhale — and a “thank goodness it’s over.” It would be a shame to close out the dumpster fire of a year without learning some important lessons.
Temporary/transient inflation is so 2021
Remember in March of 2021, when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that pandemic supply chain bottlenecks were the cause of surging prices? 2022 was a brutal reminder that prices can stay higher for longer than most expected. The Consumer Price Index peaked at 9.1% in June, before decelerating over the past five months. Through November, CPI was up 7.1% from a year ago.
Interest rates can rise fast
In January, the benchmark federal funds rate was close to zero and now stands at 4.25 to 4.5%. In March, the Fed began with a standard 0.25 percentage point increase, on its way to the most rapid pace of rate hikes in modern times, according to Charles Schwab.
That made the cost of borrowing soar, with credit card rates reaching record highs, auto loan rates jumping to the highest level in over a decade, and home equity lines of credit breaching 15-year highs.
Recession may be on the horizon, but not here yet
Although the economy shrank in the first half of the year, activity as measured by GDP, picked up in the third quarter, and is moderating in the fourth quarter. One reason that the economy is not wobbling even more is the job market, which is producing about 200,000 jobs per month, despite losses in sectors like tech, real estate, and media. With wages solid, particularly at the low end, and Americans sitting atop pandemic-era excess savings of $1.7 trillion, consumers closed out the year complaining, but still spending.
Housing is wilting, but not dead yet
Although the Fed does not control the rates on which mortgages are based, the trend of higher rates fed through to those markets as well, pushing 30-year loans to over 7%. “The year-to-date rise in mortgage rates has still stripped would-be homebuyers of one-third of their buying power,” according to Greg McBride of Bankrate, which has caused housing activity to slump. That said, prices are not cratering yet, but most expect them to drop in 2023.
Asset allocation and diversification couldn’t save you
It has been a brutal year for investors, as aggressive rate hikes by global central banks caused investors to dump both stocks and bonds. That said, over the long term, it’s awfully difficult when to get in and out of markets. Researchers at Vanguard summed it up: “From 1928 through 2021, there were more than 23,300 trading days in the U.S. stock market. Out of those, the 30 best trading days accounted for almost half of the market’s return.
Being out of the market at the wrong time is costly. And many of those best trading days were clustered closely with the worst days in the market, making precise timing nearly impossible.”
Sam Bankman-Fried is the Bernie Madoff of the Crypto era
The more you read about Sam Bankman-Fried (“SBF”), the CEO of the now bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, the more he looks like an old-fashioned scammer, like Bernie Madoff or P.T. Barnum.
The disheveled huckster now faces criminal and civil charges from the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. SBF attracted some of the most influential Silicon Valley venture capital, but new and complicated technologies, delivered by a “wizard” can lure even seasoned investors.
The best antidote? Ask a lot of questions and as always, don’t believe the hype.
Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. A former options trader and CIO of an investment advisory firm, she welcomes comments and questions at [email protected] Check her website at www.jillonmoney.com.
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