Imagine you’re sailing on a sunny day in the Gulf of Mexico when a sudden storm bubbles up and starts to rain on you and your crew. Still hours from shore, there’s zero chance of reaching shelter anytime soon, so it’s inevitable you’re going to get wet.
That sounds a lot like the investment world in 2022. The rain has come down and shelter has been hard to find with sinking hopes all around. Neither equities nor bonds have offered refuge, and with inflation rates above 7%, people couldn’t even tread water with cash in a mattress.
And for many, there has been little consolation from old-school financial advisers other than a simple reminder that all storms eventually end, so for now, just hang on and ride it out. As a result, there are plenty of soaking wet investors out there, shaking their heads, dreaming of sunnier days.
But experienced sailors know that rainy days are usually the busiest days, and when storms are brewing on financial markets, the best financial advisers get to work because opportunities to save money and create value abound.
While prospects for making money fall in bear markets, there is substantial opportunity for savings through tax loss harvesting, an Internal Revenue Service provision that allows the deduction of capital losses to offset federal taxes owed on capital gains.
A capital gain is the difference between the price an investor pays for an asset, and that investment’s sales price. For example, an investor buys an asset for $10,000, and later sells the same investment for $15,000. They have realized a capital gain of $5,000, which is taxable. Later, the same investor sells a different asset at a loss of $5,000. Under IRS rules, that loss can offset the tax obligation due from the investor’s $5,000 capital gain.
But the investing activity does not necessarily stop there. Even though the investor lost money in their second transaction, they can reinvest proceeds from the sale in a different asset with greater potential for growth. So, in the end, the investor could see an overall financial benefit of tax savings and investment value growth.
In bear markets, financial advisers are working hard for their clients, creating value through tax loss harvesting and other practices, such as rebalancing portfolios in response to market shifts and new growth opportunities. A recent rebalancing opportunity, for example, has been an increase in bond yields, which are now allowing greater investment growth potential from rising interest rates.
Regardless of good news that vigilant financial advisers can bring to clients, bear markets are challenging for everyone, but they are a necessary facet of the market. We can’t have 12% growth rates year after year without having a year like 2022 every now and then.
But when bear markets arise, we know that hunkering down to ride out the storm is not our only option. There are still opportunities to capture value, no matter how hard it’s raining and how far we are from shore.