Sure, booking tons of profits in the stock market made for a great 2018. But there’s far more investing than the gyrations of the stock market.
Navigating all asset classes successfully is critical to long-term success. When markets have their inevitable bad years, like the one we just had, knowing how to make money elsewhere is just as critical as knowing how to make a profit on declining markets as well.
Besides those profitable trades I booked last year, I made a few money moves that may cause most folks to scratch their heads. But I see them as part of my “all of the above” investment approach to building my wealth no matter what’s going on.
Here are the three moves far from the stock market I’m making now:
Buy #1: Art. In 2018, I made two art purchases. Besides liking the pieces, the relative value and future resale value were key considerations. While I’m not completely ditching my Star Wars posters anytime soon, I do recognize a few facts about art. Most importantly, it’s an asset that can appreciate more than the markets over time.
Typically, art can return an average of 15-20 percent per year. Some exceptional pieces, like a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh, will do even better—but I’m definitely not investing in that market, where prices are determined by the highest bidder at an auction house. Instead, I’m looking for great pieces in the few thousand dollar range that could someday be worth far more.
These purchases also worked for me my personal network contains a number of people who are experts on the subject. That allowed me to pick up the two pieces at a price I was comfortable at, along with some knowledge and auction data to support the buy as a value at the time. I definitely wasn’t buying some up-and-coming artists based on hype, but had much better facts to work with.
Anyone investing in collectibles, from art to stamps to coins to whatever obscure thing you like to collect should likewise build a network, start small, and treat it as a learning process and hobby first. Later, it can be turned into an alternative investment to stocks and bonds.
Buy #2: Cryptocurrencies. I like buying anything that’s fallen more than 80 percent in a year, provided it’s not on the way to bankruptcy. Late last year, cryptocurrencies hit that point. It’s the third time in about a decade (i.e., its entire existence) that this niche market has fallen this much. The last crypto wave in 2017 followed a parabolic move that I repeatedly warned investors and speculators about in a few different blogs.
But now it’s gone too far into selloff land. Most assets that fall 80 percent from their highs either recover by a lot, or they disappear entirely shortly. I don’t see cryptocurrencies disappearing yet. With that kind of asymmetric return potential, this looks interesting now with a small amount of play money.
I’m not doing anything too crazy here. While I like some of the largely-followed names like Litecoin, Ripple, and Ethereum, I’m also adding in to Bitcoin this time around, a first for me. It’s the gold-standard name in the space, and the one still catching the most institutional interest. All these names have their periodic 10 percent down days, which I think make sense for making small buys a little at a time.
In total, I plan on keeping things small, with about 2 percent of my total portfolio allocated to cryptocurrencies being considered an “all in” for me. Buying just of a few top names in the space, amounting to no more than 2 percent of your total portfolio at present, could do a lot to supercharge returns in the next few years if we get some of the big upswings like we’ve gotten in the past. And if it falls to zero, that’s easily recoverable.
This is more of a speculative “fun money” trade for investors looking for one of the most contrarian things to do right now. Just remember— take some profits off the table when the price chart starts to look parabolic.
Buy #3: Debt reduction. The only debt I carry are mortgages. And while the mortgages on all my properties have interest rates under 5 percent, I’ve been following a policy of rounding up my mortgage payments to the next $100 each month.
While we’re talking less than $1,200 per year in total per property, the savings of future payments over 30 years can really add up. For my longest-held property, for example, I’ve knocked nearly 5 years off the mortgage and saved nearly $20,000 in future interest payments in the time I’ve been doing this. Future Andrew would have had to earned closer to $30,000 and paid income taxes or capital gains to have that extra $20,000. I think Future Andrew owes me a drink!
How did that happen? It comes down to the math. In the early years of a mortgage, most of the money goes to paying interest, not principal. So making extra principal payments saves both current and future interest. Even at low rates in the 4 to 4.5 percent range, an extra dollar in payment will save over $2 in interest over the life of the loan the first few years you make payments. That’s why Future Andrew gets better off a little bit each month.
Those extra payments essentially retire this borrowed money and thus represent a savings of the rate of the mortgage percent. At 5 percent, that’s about an 11 percent higher difference over the S&P 500’s -6 percent return last year.
Some years, if not most, this debt repayment will lag the market. So I know I’m not necessarily doing the best thing here in terms of maximizing my tax deductions. But this is more of a personal peace of mind issue. Best of all, since these payments are optional, I can stop making them if I find exceptional opportunities and want the cash elsewhere, or when an extra dollar invested in paying down debt stops saving me more than, say $1.50 in interest.
So, yes, there’s a nearly infinite investment world outside the stock market too. I’m willing to try them all out, and for these unusual moves I made, I hope you are too.
If you’re concerned about the markets, consider doing some more debt reduction like I did for that key psychological peace of mind. If you’re more of a speculator, cryptocurrencies may surprise to the upside as it has after other 80 percent declines. And if you’re looking to build long-term wealth and have the cash to do so, the returns on art can be phenomenal over time.
Andrew Packer is a Senior Financial Editor with questsin Media. He currently writes the Insider Hotline investment advisory, serves as investment director for the Financial Braintrust, and writes the monthly newsletter Crisis Point Investor.