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Is TINA Dead? What Rising Rates, High Inflation, and Falling Asset Prices Mean for Your Investing Plan

For over a decade, the U.S. stock market was a stronghold of growth when virtually nothing else was — bank deposits paid virtually no interest, bonds lagged stocks, and alternatives such as venture capital and fine art proved far too burdensome.

That stronghold of growth has been challenged in 2022, though. The markets have been dealt a tough hand, with major indexes such as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 down more than 20% year-to-date. Barring the COVID-19 market crash, there are few downturns that compare in the recent memory of the American investor.

However, for scores of seasoned investors, the market’s correction could mark the end of an era. It marks the end of stocks being the only game in town, particularly if you wanted to beat inflation and grow your net worth. That’s because stocks, which many investors bought in spite of their riskiness because they generally outperformed everything else anyway, are finally underperforming. Investors even gave their observation an imaginative name: There Is No Alternative, or TINA for short. 

And now, after years of the TINA trade, TINA is arguably dead and there are alternatives at the disposal of investors. However, what alternatives might be best for you might differ based on what you need and want. As such, you can use this piece as a general guide for how to navigate the new options at your disposal.

If TINA is Dead, What Are the Alternatives?

TINA is dead and we can relish in the options that might exist for investors and savers alike. Stocks and bonds seem to be facing down the barrel of a bear market, interest rates have been rising, many countries are already in technical recessions, and inflation is still proving pesky with people’s finances.

That’s why, for starters, it might pay to take a score of where you’re at and what you want. We’ve written at length about how to prepare for a recession, no matter how long it lasts. A short alternative could be: don’t panic, kill debt first, create an emergency fund, and invest for the long-term.

How does the death of TINA affect your plan — or, more importantly, if you’re making a plan for the first time, how do these alternatives affect piecing a plan together? 

Here’s an a la carte of options to consider:

Stay in Cash For Liquidity and Yield

Especially given the uncertainty of the market and the economy, holding onto cash might be a good option for Americans right now. Holding onto cash has become tenable again, thanks to rising interest rates. 

You’ll want to check that your bank account is paying interest on bank deposits, though. If they’re not, sitting on cash might do more bad than good — that’s because inflation eats at the value of your dollar and the value of currency can change against other currencies, making it less valuable over time.

However, sitting on cash at a neobank or another financial institution rewarding you for saving could be the closest thing to a safe thing that you can get in uncertain times.

Related: After Raising Swipe Fees Bipartisan Leaders Take Aim At Credit Card Networks.

Buy A Series I Savings Bond or TIPS

If you have some spare cash sitting around and want a way to get around inflation, your best bet might be Series I Savings Bonds, or I Bonds for short. I Bonds are a form of inflation-protected bonds, which means that the bond will always match inflation. 

As of September 2022, I Bonds were paying a 9.62% interest rate; the inflation adjustment is made twice a year. However, you can buy as much as $10,000 of I Bonds per year. Also, make sure to read the fine print —- the Treasury requires you to hold the bond for a period of time, otherwise you might incur penalties.

If you need instant liquidity, a popular alternative to Series I bonds are Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS.) TIPS operate much in the same way that I Bonds do, they just achieve the desired goal —- insuring your money against the creep of inflation —- in a different way. Be sure to research all the options at your disposal before doing anything.

Save for Retirement By Buying the Dip 

If you’ve got enough disposable income coming in, investing in a qualified account such as an IRA, Roth IRA, 401(K) or Roth 401(K) might be a way to fetch tax benefits while investing for the long run. 

It’s easy to see why investing now could be a huge opportunity. With stocks and bonds down more than 20% from their all-time highs, putting away a few bucks and letting it ride for a decade or more could go a long way.

However, bear in mind that with interest rates expected to rise to over 4% in 2023, we could be facing a different kind of market than we’ve experienced in recent years. That’s because higher interest rates generally translate to lower asset prices, which means the price of real estate, stocks, and bonds generally end up being less valuable. This means, in the near-term, you might lose money. 

One way to avoid doing that is to invest in a time-tested index strategy such as the S&P 500. It’s not guaranteed to drive returns, especially under the kind of stress the economy has been under in recent months, but the index has averaged double digit annual gains since the modern index booted up in the late 1950s.

Related: Why Should you Diversify When Investing in ETFs?

Sell Your Losers (And Use The Cash Wisely)

Defensive stocks and defense stocks_

Managing your losses is arguably as important as managing your gains —- and if you’re one of the 15% of investors who got their start with investing during the pandemic, you might be asking yourself what to do about all those individual stocks you own that are down 20%, 40%, maybe even more than 50% from your buy price.

Many investors continue to hold stocks and high expense ratio funds even when they underperform and they don’t believe in them anymore. Why? Because of the hope they’ll rise again —- and they might, but they also might not.

That’s why it might help to take a look at your portfolio and review what’s winning, what’s losing, and reflect on the reason why you own certain stocks. If you don’t know why you have it, it might be time to cut it and replace it with a low cost index fund, sit on cash, or deposit it in U.S. government bonds (arguably the least risky investment of all.)

By selling stocks you’d plan to sell anyway, you might also pick up a small tax break on losses.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows investors to write off up to $3,000 in taxable losses per year. In that sense, taking an L on a stock in your Robinhood or WeBull account might mean a W come tax time. Check with your tax advisor before making decisions, as your unique circumstances might affect this.

Check Out Alternative Platforms

Though alternatives are not always reliable or easy to understand, many investors have turned to alternative investment platforms investing in fine art, investment grade spirits, investable collectables, farm land, or real estate. These platforms exist in their own bubble of the investment sphere, separate from the stock and bond market

There’s definitely the possibility to make money using trusted alternative platforms during down periods for bond and equities markets. However, they are not without their risks — not all platforms are created equally, alternative investments might carry higher fees and less options to cash out (liquidity), and you might be exposed to risks you wouldn’t otherwise experience in more conventional investments. The allure of uncorrelated returns might excite you though, so while it’s essential to do your research before diving in, alternatives could be feasible options for a more experimental, hands-on investor.

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