What is the driver of our economy in the United States? Is it labor? Not entirely because our nation is suffering one of its highest unemployment rates in recent history based on a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics dated January 8, 2021, and the world keeps spinning. The current United Stated unemployment rate of 6.7% is not the actual number that concerns me. When you understand the factors that compute the unemployment rate in our country, you must also consider those individuals who have simply dropped out the job market and resigned themselves to remaining unemployable. The true number of unemployed and underemployed individuals in the United States, the quoted unemployment rate would easily double.
Is our economy built on industries? Yes. The five most productive industries in the United States, for 2019, are healthcare, technology, construction, retail and durable goods. Each month the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an official agency of the United States Department of Commerce, reports on the various components of the economy both domestic and internationally. Due to the lack of business operations in the second quarter of 2020, caused by the impact of COVID-19, the gross domestic production in our country fell by more than 31.4% but rebounded sharply when businesses reopened and employees went back to work in the third quarter of 2020.
If the economy has been so volatile, why have the markets been so robust? The answer is not a simple one but allow me to offer a response. Based on a report in Barron’s published on January 2, 2021, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) returned 18.4% for the calendar year 2020. This index is representative of the overall economic condition of the United States. Consider the fate of smaller, less capitalized companies primarily based in our country. The return of the Nasdaq Composite for 2020, based on the same Barron’s report, was 45%. Smaller companies have the ability to adapt to economic conditions but may not have the funding necessary to survive economic downturns.
One word of caution when considering any investment is to think long-term. In the past couple of weeks, I have received requests from individuals for the “hottest” stock or “one that is priced low and guaranteed to rise in value in a short time”. The answer I provided each of these individuals is to think long-term, diversify to lower risk and consider your current needs. One of the individuals commented that he “didn’t have much time until he wants to retire” and intimated that he would have to earn excellent returns over the next two years to meet his goals. I am not one to trample on others’ goals but I can assure you that one should not expect the markets to behave in a predictable manner for the short-term to payoff big investments.
The most probable method of reaching your goal for investing is to start early, invest consistently in good and bad markets and stay focused on the long-term. It will reward you to discount the suggestions of those that promise “no risk” and “excellent returns” when the real world of investing contains no such attributes. All investments have risk. One of the safest investments you can make is to place cash in a savings account. However, that investment has significant purchasing power risk. Your money’s ability to buy goods and services in the next ten years will be impaired due to the impact of inflation. Think about it in an economic sense, your money is earning less than 1% and inflation is greater than 2%. Not a good outcome for your future.
To provide yourself peace of mind, it is critical you stress test your portfolio by measuring performance during market cycles that are not at the peak. If I had a crystal ball, I could inform you of market movements and the world would be swimming in butterflies and unicorns. That is not reality. What is real is financial advice given you in a fiduciary manner that addresses your needs, goals and risks. Wouldn’t you sleep better if you knew you could weather a financial storm? Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ professional for a complimentary consultation and analysis. Sleep well, my friends.