Fantastic amounts of money were made in stocks, housing, cryptocurrency and more during a pandemic that killed 6.2 million people and rocked the global economy.
It seems strange, but it shouldn’t. Governments and central banks around the world took exceptional measures to support the financial system during the pandemic, and it worked to excess. The real mystery is what comes next.
The pandemic has for now settled down to a point where it appears we can live a mostly normal existence again. But in the financial world, we are heading into a period of disruption like we haven’t seen since the 1980s and 90s.
A quick summary of what’s happening out there: Inflation has reached the highest level in three decades, interest rates are soaring, oil prices are sky high, stocks are wobbling precariously after an epic two-year rally and the overheated housing market is losing momentum. Some of these trends may worsen, while others improve.
But it’s already clear that the worst money mistake you can make right now is to assume that what worked in the past two years will keep going. Change is coming – the only question is how much it will hurt. With that in mind, here are five core personal finance principles for the rest of 2022.
With your job: Ask for a raise or bonus right now; if the economy slows, and that’s expected as rates rise, then employers will be much less open to indulging workers and may pivot to layoffs.
With your debt: If your debt makes you sweat, pay it down where possible; lowering your mortgage balance means less exposure to higher rates when you renew; when renewing a mortgage, fighting for the lowest rate matters more than ever.
With your savings: Move your money to banks that are responding to rate increases with better returns for savers; ultra-safe high interest savings accounts offer peak rates of 1.5 to 1.7 per cent and one-year guaranteed investment certificates pay up to 3.1 per cent.
With your investments: It’s time to take out the trash and focus on quality; rid your portfolio of speculative stocks or funds that have lost previous momentum; consider GICs instead of bonds to avoid the decline in bond prices triggered by rising interest rates.
With your home buying intentions: With rates rising, the fear of missing out should give way to fear of overpaying at the market peak; walking with wallet open into a bidding war seems so 2021.
Rising interest rates are the main driver of the financial changes to come. At their pandemic lows, rates powered stocks by making saving and conservative investing seem pointless. They also kept home buying affordable, even as prices rolled higher by fat double-digit amounts in cities across the country.
But a three-decade trend of declining rates is over. Rates now and again spiked higher during that period, but modest inflation meant they didn’t have to stay high for long. Inflation today is intolerably high and must be hammered repeatedly with rate increases. Expect the Bank of Canada’s trendsetting overnight rate to increase by another 0.5 of a percentage point on June 1 and keep rising.
Governments contributed to the money-making of the past two years by pouring money into supporting business and individuals whose livelihoods were hurt by the pandemic. Like central banks, governments arguably overdid it. But if they had been stingy with this help, might we be talking right now about deflation rather than inflation?
While we were in a health emergency in the past two years, the financial environment rewarded aggressive, bold thinking about risk and money. Average national resale house prices were up 31.6 per cent in March, 2021, on a year-over-year basis. If you bought into that red hot market, you were in a position to benefit from the 11.2-per-cent gain of the past 12 months.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index was up 44.3 per cent for the 12 months to March 31, 2021, on a total return basis built on share price changes plus dividends. If you bought into that red hot market, you were in a position to benefit from the 20-per-cent gain of the past 12 months.
Low rates and government supports powered those increases more than anything else. The end of both presents a risk that the era of pandemic wealth-building ends not with a whimper, but a bang.
Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.