Does It Make Sense To Run To Bonds With A Recession Looming?


When you receive a warning from someone who is an expert in their field, it’s hard not to panic and start changing your plans. A forty-year-old man is at what he feels is a crossroads, given the advice he has gotten through the advice his parents got from their financial advisors. Would he be wise to heed the warning with the economic outlook we face? He asked a lively Internet forum for help.

This man said, “My parents do well. They have a fancy bank that tells them winter is coming, a recession, and they’re moving a lot into bonds. My 401k recovered chiefly, but it’s 80% stock. I read consumer savings dropped below that of the financial Recession, consumer debt is higher, the cost of living is higher, cars are more expensive, and everything is more expensive. When will people stop paying off their loans and bring about another Great Recession?

The government has over twice the debt it had last time. If D.C. needs to bail out industries such as banking or automotive… do they still have the money to stabilize things? If they hadn’t bailed out Wall Street, it would have been the Great Depression again, minus the dust bowl.

Should I go to 100% bonds because we might not hit what I was at before, but it’d be better than being down a ton? I also want to be where I can rapidly move the money back to undervalued companies. For example, Apple lost much value and gained it all back during the Great Recession.”

Auto Purchase During a Down Market

Here’s a response that discourages what the individual is considering. This commenter advised, “If you are relatively young, a down market is a gift as your shares auto purchase new shares through dividend reinvestment for much lower from when you bought. Then when the market goes up again, your portfolio will be even more significant.

Never sell based on market conditions when you are young. You set an age-appropriate asset allocation and sit with it. You place your dividend stock to buy more shares with the paid dividend instead of cash.”

Related: Discover the power of dollar cost averaging vs lump sum investing

Back In 2016

How did a similar plan to what the original poster is considering fare in the past? A commenter who watched a friend do something similar said, “A good friend of mine went all bonds and cash in 2016 because “the market was too bull for too long,” and everyone was parroting the Recession. He thought I was crazy for keeping the investments going monthly without changing.

He finally bought back in – in late 2019 and sold on the Covid drop. I’m far, far ahead of him now with similar total investments. I timed nothing, made no changes, and have been 100% stocks, S&P, for over two decades. Good luck!”

Related: Learn the difference between timing the market and time in the market

Get Good Advisors

This plan is something that many people overlook. They don’t see the benefits of having an impartial mind considering everything for you.

A forum member stressed the need for this impartiality and lack of emotion in financial decisions. They said, “You should hire someone to make these decisions. Hiring a financial counselor may seem silly as you can read and learn the same as a Financial Advisor.

Still, emotions can get in the way since you are human and dealing with your own money. You’ve mentioned several hazardous potential options when investing with your feelings. Go all to cash, face reinvestment rate risk, and potentially miss out on the upswing in the market.”

Related: Should you hire a financial advisor or DIY

The Future Isn’t Written

While many people have opinions on what will happen in the future, it’s impossible to be right 100% of the time. A person who does not believe in prognostication stated, “No human alive knows the exact direction in the market will move with 100% certainty—anyone who pretends to be foolish or lying to you.

Proper Asset Allocation, following modern portfolio theory, and investing for the long run are the ways to deal with that uncertainty.

There are zero guarantees that the stock market will become cheaper relative to bonds in the future, even if a recession does happen. We have witnessed a fair amount of inflation over the last year or two. Inflation means dollars are worth less; when that happens, the prices of everything – including stocks – will tend to rise.

Suppose there’s enough (and unpredictable enough) inflation that economic activity goes down. In that case, corporations become worth less, creating downward stock pressure, but that low pressure may not be greater than the upward pressure from inflation.”

Paper Losses, Paper Wins

This wise person reminded the original poster of this bit of truth. He said, “Remember, when your 401K dips, it is only a paper loss. When it goes up, it is only a paper win. The only time the price of any fund or stock counts is when you buy or sell it. Check your funds and be sure everything is smooth in there. If something goes under, then it will be an actual loss.

That is what they mean when they talk about the 2008 bailout. However, some of those guys should have gone to jail.”

Don’t Worry, You’re Still Young

Finally, this comment was a reminder that the original person and his parents are in two different age groups and that his parents are moving toward retirement. This canny contributor cautioned him, “Moving your portfolio out of stocks and into bonds is something you’d start to do within a decade of retirement, regardless of the state of the market.

If you’re still 20 or 30 years away and have another couple of boom-bust cycles to get through, as others have said, keep buying in slow and steady into general stock funds, and don’t try and be too clever. The S&P is 17% off its all-time high and is unlikely to drop much below 20% of its December 2021 peak unless there’s a global catastrophe. In other words, don’t worry too much!”

This thread brought you this post.

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