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How to help your money grow in 2023 against a backdrop of economic uncertainty

Experts say it’s a good time to invest in the stock market now that prices have come down
Falling Canadian dollar coins are pictured in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian investors who made it through a tumultuous 2022 face further uncertainty in the year ahead amid increased recession risk, higher interest rates, persistent inflation, a jittery stock market and a plummeting real estate market.

Investment professionals and personal finance experts say the easiest way to grow your money this year is to keep things simple.

It’s a good time to invest in the stock market now that prices have come down quite a bit, especially for people with time on their side, said investment expert and author of “The Sassy Investor” Michelle Hung.

“Investing in some broad market index funds like the S&P 500 index, S&P/TSX composite index, and high-quality dividend funds are good for money growth in the long term,” she said.

“There is some good value out there with companies that pay steady dividends and have modest growth potential and are less volatile than, for example, technology companies. Canadian bank stocks fall into that category. They’re always good to have in your portfolio.”

Hung also suggests including some safer investment options like guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). The two main features of every GIC is the term and the interest rate.

“Some GICs are paying upwards of five per cent per year,” she said.

Hung added that with higher interest rates, fixed-income products, such as bonds, are better now as an investment option than at any time over the last decade.

When it comes to where stock markets are headed, Carol Schleif, chief investment officer at BMO Family Office expects them to move from jittery to range-bound as investors settle into the new normal of higher interest rates. A range-bound market is when the price of financial assets like stocks or commodities remain in a relatively tight range for an extended period of time.

“There are ways to balance the risks of investing in stocks. Be diversified by market capitalization, locale and industry. Watch your costs and turnover. Adopt a long-term attitude and use dollar-cost averaging and rebalancing to your advantage,” she said.

Being in cash right now isn’t a bad idea, Schleif added.

“Cash is no longer trash. Many advisors are weaving cash holdings into asset allocation recommendations — when it historically hasn’t been considered an asset class in its own right. Investors can get paid to be patient,” she said.

Cash, or liquid funds, in an investment portfolio gives you wiggle room during times of financial uncertainty.

When thinking about the stock market as a vehicle to build wealth, Diana Orlic, portfolio manager and wealth advisor at Richardson Wealth, said it is important to consider what stage of life you’re in.

“If you’re young, you actually want terrible markets, because you’re the one that is buying, and you want to buy low,” she said.

“If you’re established and you have a good net worth, I think this is the perfect time right now to review your portfolio. If you have gains, take them — take your winners. If there are things that you’re uncomfortable with, now is the time to do a tune-up.”

Orlic said she prefers the Canadian markets for commodities, materials and utilities stocks and the U.S. markets for financials and healthcare at the moment.

Technology stocks got pummeled in 2022, and while Orlic doesn’t expect them to be the leaders in the next leg up in the market, she isn’t negative on the sector.

“I do think that there’s still room for growth there. But will (tech) perform like the previous years? I think that remains to be seen.”

For people looking for less conventional investment opportunities, The Sassy Investor’s Hung said the crypto market is still worth taking a look at as popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum try to regain their footing after a challenging 2022.

“I do have my eye on cryptocurrency now that it’s so out of favour. It’s not for everyone, but for those who can stomach higher risks, it’s an asset class to keep an eye out on,” she said.

Real estate is a good investment as long as you’re not putting all or most of your eggs into the basket, Richardson Wealth’s Orlic said.

“If all your assets are in real estate, the trouble could be if some of the investment properties aren’t doing well or people aren’t paying. Do you have the cash flow to sustain it during bad times? Do you have the cash to sustain it if interest rates go up and mortgage costs go up?”

BMO’s Schleif points to timber, mineral rights, farmland, wine, and art as alternative investments worth considering, though getting good guidance on selecting the right alternative investments and understanding their tax implications is crucial, she explained.

When seeking out investment opportunities, Parween Mander, financial counsellor and money coach, is urging people not to be impulsive amid all of the noise that really ticked up during the COVID-19 pandemic era.

“I think we really need to be mindful of the role of social media and personal finance advice that’s encouraging people to take advantage of the current real estate and stock markets and invest because things are cheaper,” she said.

“Advice like buying real estate to flip into Airbnb, crypto, and stock picking is very dangerous advice that some people may think is right for them because it’s a ‘great time to invest.’”

It is especially important during uncertain times to be smart with your money, Mander said, and to prioritize debt resilience and ultimately ensure your financial foundation is secure before looking to build on it.

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