The S&P 500 has just hit an all time high (3,638.35 on 27th Nov 2020) despite the current economic uncertainty, buoyed by the prospect of a potential vaccine for Covid-19. Yet the rising market is exposed to the slightest amount of bad news which could send it falling back down quite rapidly.
Logistical problems with distribution, a sudden surge in cases due to the holiday season, further uncertainty with the U.S election, Brexit... it's not hard to imagine something with potential to spook investors.
Bitcoin surged around 40% from around $13,800 on the 1st Nov 2020 to around $19,280 on the 25th Nov 2020, only to fall to $17,100 by the 28th Nov 2020. A drop of just under 12% in 3 days.
Cryptocurrency in general has followed Bitcoin by surging in the past month, followed by a drop in the past couple of days. In some cases, the cryptocurrency has dropped back down to the pre-surge levels if not lower, meaning an investor would've lost money if they had carelessly jumped on the train and held on.
With all this being said here's a question:
"Where should I invest my money right now?"
It's easy to be nervous about investing your money whenever the price feels "high" even if you're fully aware of the rule on not timing the market.
A friend of mine who regularly invests in the stock market recently sent a message to a private WhatsApp group (Shout out to the Billionaire Boys Club) and said that as he was transferring money into his investment account, as per usual on payday, he thought to himself "Hmmm this seems high at the moment to be putting money in to".
I trust he eventually stuck to the plan (as he should), but it just shows that even those of us with experience can be affected by the psychology of "it's too high at the moment".
Disclaimer: None of us in the group are billionaires, sadly. But we are all boys (sadly?).
So here's a reminder on the key principles that you should stick to whenever you invest your money:
Never invest money that you might need within the next 3 to 5 years.
Invest for the long term, not for quick profits.
Never time the market, nobody can tell the future.
Keep your investments well diversified in terms of assets type, market sector and geography.
Don't blindly invest your money due to "Fear of Missing Out" (FOMO).
If you follow the above key principles you will realise that you should keep investing your money into a globally diversified index fund, knowing that over time it's likely to perform well for you.
Today's "high prices" in the stock market will be considered low and attractive in the future.
Where else can I put my money?
So you've thought about the principles above and you know that it's the right thing to do in the long run, but you just can't shake this nervous feeling you have and it's stopping you pulling the trigger on investing your money into the markets.
That's absolutely fine.
If you have any doubts then you're going to be less mentally prepared to stay the course should a big market drop actually happen. It's a smart move to take the time to get yourself better prepared psychologically, as that's how you stay consistent in the long run.
What's not smart however is not investing at all.
But if you're not investing your money into the stock market, and I personally wouldn't really recommend jumping into cryptocurrencies purely based on FOMO, then where is your money going to go?
Maybe, although you'll need to understand all the regulations and work that's involved. Plus the value of a property can drop just like the stock market.
Being a landlord isn't quite as simple as "buying a house and renting it out".
Gold and Bonds?
If you do this you're basically picking a particular asset class to invest your money into. The same can also be said for the rental property idea.
This would go against the principles mentioned earlier and you'd be better off investing into a diversified index fund that also included different types of assets.
Another friend, also a part of the Billionaire Boys Club, showed some "data" that mentioned Whiskey as the best performing asset class of 2019. Apparently there are average returns of 582% over a period of 10 years. This prompted one of the other boys to say "BRB.. heading to Asda".
I don't think that's how it works, plus that "data" came from an advert so probably best to give this one a miss unless you're an insider of the Whisky crowd.
There is one investment that's as guaranteed as can be
The above examples were just some possible options that quickly sprung to mind when thinking of alternatives to the stock market. Don't take it as investment advice because if you didn't already know, I have no idea if they are going to perform well or not.
Your guess is as good as mine, and if you're insistent on guessing then we might as well try to guess the price of LON: BP in the future.
Disclaimer: Don't bother, this hasn't gone well for some of us.
But there is one investment that I can recommend that I think will serve you well no matter what and it is applicable to anyone out there, no matter what stage of the game you're at:
Your own self
It might be a bit cliché and it certainly doesn't sound as good coming from me as it would from someone like Warren Buffett or Mark Cuban, but there's a reason why it's suggested all the time, especially by billionaires or other successful people.
It's because it works and you're never going to lose out on the money, time or effort you spend on personal growth.
Investing in yourself often seems to be overlooked whenever people are looking for a place to put their hard earned money, but I can think of no better place if all of the other options carry a level of risk that's a bit too much for your current appetite.
In all honesty this is something that you should be putting just as much into as all of your other investments, and not just as an aside when you're out of ideas.
Here's a few examples on how you can get started:
Taking care of your health
All the money you earn and build up is nothing without your health, so you should dedicate some portion of your time and money towards staying healthy which can also help you reduce stress.
This doesn't necessarily mean you need to be hitting the gym 5 times a week, but it does mean you should try to do some physical activity regularly and be mindful of what you eat. I love my beer and pizza but I also eat very cleanly throughout the week.
How to invest: Spend a little more on higher quality food ingredients instead of sticking to something "cheap and convenient". Don't be afraid of the gym membership if you can fit it into your budget, or start riding a bike to work if you don't live too far away.
If you want that pay rise then the easiest way is to raise the value of your skills to the company you're working for. Take the time to learn more about your field of work and understand how you can make a bigger impact. Usually this can involve getting a qualification that is recognised in the industry.
Did the work and got the qualification, but didn't get the raise?
Not a problem, since you're much more employable than you were previously. Get where this is going?
How to invest: If you feel you've gained experience in your profession but aren't making as much progress as you wanted, be willing to work on gaining a recognised qualification. You might need to spend your own personal time and money but it will be worth it for your future opportunities.
Diversify your skills and knowledge
Specialising in a particular skill or profession is required to make a lot of progress, especially if you want to advance far into the field. But it wouldn't be wise to place all of your eggs into one basket and have no knowledge of anything else.
By spending a bit of time and energy in learning other things you become much more adaptable as you will have other abilities and knowledge that you can utilise, and it can even compliment your main area of expertise despite not really being related.
This is a win win situation, you learn something new and you can become better at what you do.
How to invest: Diversifying your skills can be as simple as learning to cook, learning to draw or learning a new language. New skills will consume time and effort for you to gain any real competence but once you do, the things you learn can easily help you overcome problems in other parts of life as you can transpose the experience.
See and try new things
In my opinion there is a difference between "travel" and "going on holiday". One is focused on expanding your viewpoints and culture by seeing and trying new things, while the other is simply about relaxing and shutting off for a short while.
Both are important but the one that can have a lasting impact is the former.
The world is a vast place and full of different wonders that you may not have even heard of or imagined. Getting a chance to see and experience these can often be eye opening and help you develop your views in ways that you never expected.
This in turn can broaden your thinking, making your better equipped to solve problems and make progress in your everyday life.
How to invest: Going to new places will undoubtedly cost you money but if you're smart with how and what you spend on, the experience can be well worth it. Travel doesn't necessarily mean going abroad as there are many places in the country where you can similarly broaden your experiences. The only thing you need is a willingness to try new things that you haven't tried before.
Read more books
It's no coincidence that the vast majority of successful people will spend a portion of their time to read regularly.
Reading allows you to extract the knowledge and information from those who have come before us, and gives an insight into the lessons and experiences they wish to pass on.
If you're picking your books carefully you'll eventually find that you know much more about certain topics than you ever thought you would, and just like with learning new skills you'll sometimes be able to transpose that new knowledge into your everyday life which can help you make progress or overcome problems.
How to invest: Books are cheap and easy to get your hands on. Be deliberate about the material you read, as you can't learn about things like business or psychology from a science fiction novel; but always leave space for other genres to avoid getting burnt out by the same topic over and over.
The stock market making new highs is a very normal phenomenon and shouldn't be a reason for anyone to stop investing, especially if they are in it for the long term. Think about it... If the stock market is at an all time high it means that anyone who invested at all of the previous "all time highs" is currently making a profit.
So my strongest belief is that everyone should stick to the principles mentioned towards the start of the article and as long as they stay the course then it's not going to matter what the market does in the short time be it rise or fall.
However, if you don't think you can bring yourself to put any more money into the stock market at the moment then don't forget that investing in yourself is one of the best alternative options available.
You are your own best investment and as you continue to grow you will be happier, more confident and much wealthier, not just richer, in life than you ever were before.
Throughout this article I mentioned various concepts and principles that I have covered in previous articles. If you want to get into the details of those you can find the links below: