Is the stock market… thriving?
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What on earth is going on with the stock market?
Can you believe that one year ago this was our last “normal” week? By mid-March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had set into motion massive restrictions and an unprecedented drop in economic output. The stock market spiralled–the S&P 500/TSX stock market index lost 37% of value in just two months. While GDP remained well below pre-COVID levels, the stock market somehow managed to recover in only 126 trading days.
But how did it happen?
Remember that the stock market is not an accurate representation of the economy. It’s forward looking, which means that a trader is not just focused on the present realities of a company, but also on a company’s future profits and cash flows. Historically, stock market prices are leading indicators. In other words, stock price increases come first and economic recovery follows after. The same happened in the 2009 recession. Investors are betting it will happen in 2021.
Another reason is that the S&P 500 stock market index is heavily weighted towards tech stocks. While Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk are increasing their net worth, small business owners are struggling to make ends meet. Because small businesses are not publicly traded, their suffering is not explicitly reflected on the stock market.
Is the stock market bubble going to burst?
Recently #stockmarketcrash has been trending on Twitter and Reddit. There is growing fear that the stock market is going to tank soon. Two factors; heavy dependence on tech stocks, and high inflation are the main culprits. Many believe that an interest rate spike is on the horizon. Higher interest rates will increase borrowing costs for companies and slow down their respective growth rates.
So, should we be panicking or not…?
While speculation is rife, no one knows for sure. What is obvious is that stock market turbulence is inevitable. It’s wise to not panic, remain resilient and prepare for what’s to come.
Spilling the NFTea…
A couple weeks ago, someone bought a non-fungible token (NFT) of the Nyan Cat GIF for 300 ether, which is worth a whopping $590,000 USD. As you may know, we’re big fans of memes here at Btchcoin, but enough to buy them for hundreds of thousands of dollars? Definitely not.
NFTs have been making headlines the past few weeks, but what exactly are they? NFTs are a type of cryptocurrency that represent a virtual asset, which includes GIFs, art, music and even tweets. Unlike bitcoin, each NFT is unique and therefore can’t be duplicated, making it non-fungible. Much like auctioning artwork IRL, no two NFTs are the same and they can’t be exchanged with something else of an equal value.
What’s the difference between saving an image for free and purchasing an NFT of the image for lots of cash?
When you buy an NFT of say, a photo of beans, you’re buying a certificate that says you own the photo and proof of its authenticity. This is made possible because NFTs are created and sold using blockchain technology that tracks a token’s ownership and makes it next to impossible to alter data. It’s worth noting that buying an NFT doesn’t entail purchasing the trademark or reproduction rights to the work.
Why are they trending now?
Similar to the narrative around bitcoin, many investors are seeing value in different assets like NFTs amid intense market fluctuations and economic uncertainty. For artists, especially those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, selling digital works has provided an alternative path to monetizing their work. Also, a lot of people are just bored and investing in crypto art as a quarantine hobby.
So, is this another bubble in the making?
What appears to be a sudden interest in NFTs isn’t new. Back in 2017, an NFT trading game created by Vancouver-based Dapper Labs “accounted for 95% of Ethereum network usage at its peak.” It’s not entirely clear where this NFTcrypto art mania is headed right now, but I think we can all agree watching people bid thousands of dollars in ether on memes is pretty wild.
Talking to an Investor: Zoe Wolpert from WealthSimple on Socially Responsible Investing and Retirement
Interview by Cydney Melnyk
Zoe Wolpert is a Senior Investment and Retirement Specialist at WealthSimple, she holds the Chartered Investment Management Designation and a Certificate in Advanced Investment Advice.
This is the final part of a series of interviews with Zoe to debut our partnership with Wealthsimple (more on that in coming weeks)
Given the current economic climate, many Canadians have opted for saving their money rather than investing. What is your advice for people holding onto savings instead of investing in the market?
Zoe: Everybody, regardless of the times that we are in, should have an emergency fund that covers their immediate needs somewhere between three and six months worth of their expenses. We recommend having this emergency fund before you do any investing.
Investing is good for the long term, not for the short term. An emergency fund creates a safety net around your investments so that you don’t have to tap into them in case of an emergency. This is important because you don’t want to have to withdraw from your investments when they’re down.
Talking about long-term and short-term investments, what is the shortest term window for investing?
Zoe: If you’re planning to go on a trip next year, don’t invest that money. Three or fewer years is too short a timeframe to invest. Anything between three and five years is considered a short time frame, but you can invest conservatively. That means your portfolio is going to have a much larger portion of it allocated to fixed income, which is considered more stable. Five to ten years is considered medium term, with this you can have a more balanced portfolio with some fixed income and some equity stocks. Ten or more years would be considered long term. For long-term investments you can be weighted towards equities, so maybe 75% or more in stocks and just a little bit of fixed income to help balance.
Many of our readers have student or other debt. Should they start investing or should they focus on paying down debt first?
Zoe: You want to pay down any high interest debt before you start investing. For example, with credit card debt you’re paying 20% in interest. You’re not likely to get that in the market. However, if the interest on your debt is less than 5%, like your student loan, you may consider investing. Basically, if you are making less on your investment than you are paying on debt, pay off debt first.
Considering today’s economic uncertainty, is investing in an RRSP still the best option for retirement? Or is it better to use accounts like TFSAs where money can be accessed more readily if needed?
Zoe: A good rule of thumb is if you’re making more than $50,000/year, an RRSP contribution makes sense because you’re not in the lowest tax bracket anymore and it can help you to reduce your taxes, which gives you more money in your pocket today. A lot of people will do both. They will make an RRSP contribution, enough to bring them down to a lower marginal tax rate and then they will put the rest in their TFSA. Or they might take their refund from their RRSP contribution and put that in their TFSA.
It’s true that with an RRSP your money is a little more locked up because it’s meant for retirement. You can withdraw from it to buy a house or to go back to school, but you must pay yourself that money back. Think of it as an interest free loan to yourself. You have 15 years to pay it back, but you do have to pay it back. With an RRSP, you should be thinking of it as money that you can afford to put away for the long term. Whereas a TFSA is great if you’re making less than $50,000/year or if flexibility is very important to you.
I would like to note that if you’re making more than $50,000/year now, but you expect your income to increase significantly and fast over the next few years, it’s okay to focus on your TFSA now and use that RRSP contribution room in future years when you’re in an even higher tax bracket. That’s something I get asked a lot; especially if you’re in school or just getting started in your career and you expect a big salary increase.
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Stuff We Read and We Liked:
We’re one year into an economically devastating pandemic, and yet Canada’s housing market is booming. Here’s an NYT piece on ‘why’, and a Toronto Star piece of the ‘who’ of faltering efforts towards affordable housing.
This piece on how the ‘model minority myth’ has hidden the realities of anti-Asian violence.
If you’re looking for a (kind of happy) cry, Claire recommends this video of a youth orchestra in northern Iraq returning to play in Mosul.