Tax Loss Harvesting: How to Make the Most Out of Market Volatility

When we invest money, our main objective is to see the money grow. When we think about market losses and downturns, we may think of painful periods where we watch our account balances decrease instead of grow. While market losses are never fun, they are unfortunately a part of the normal investment life cycle. However, when market volatility hands us losses, there are some options to make lemonade out of lemons.  

What is tax loss harvesting?

Tax loss harvesting is the process of selling securities while they are at a loss, realizing that loss for tax purposes, and then redeploying that money into another investment (such as a different stock, bond, or mutual fund). The IRS does not allow you to sell an investment at a loss, receive the tax benefit, and then immediately reinvest those proceeds into the exact same security right away. Selling a security and re-purchasing it within the same 30-day window is called a “Wash Sale.” You can avoid triggering the Wash Sale rule by investing in something similar but different enough to avoid having the rule apply.

While most people will tend to do this only once at year end, this is actually something that can be done at any time in the year with no limit as to how frequently you do so. With custom indexing and commission-free trading, frequent tax loss harvesting has become more achievable than ever. In years of high volatility, frequently harvesting tax losses can have a big impact on your tax bill.  

Keep in mind that for this strategy to work, you must have capital invested in a taxable, non-retirement brokerage account. Your 401(k) and IRA are not eligible for tax loss harvesting.

How does it benefit you?

In years of extreme volatility, you may be able to accumulate a large amount of tax losses in a short period of time. These losses can then be used to offset future capital gains.  If you end up with more tax losses than you have gains to offset them in any given year, you can use the losses to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income on your tax return.  

You will be able to carry forward an unlimited amount of these losses into future tax years until you’ve been able to use them up.

Tax loss harvesting can be especially useful for investors who might have highly concentrated company stock with a large amount of unrealized gains, or other legacy investments that they’ve been holding onto to avoid a large tax impact. These tax losses can be used to help decrease single stock risk and sell off legacy assets with little to no tax impact.

What are the next steps?

If you are a Warren Street client, we are already doing this for you (as applicable).  For clients with larger taxable brokerage accounts invested in our custom indexing strategy, you will likely see tax loss harvesting happening on a more frequent basis.  

All in all, seeing losses reported on your Form 1099 form is not necessarily a bad thing. While your long term objective remains the same in terms of seeking growth, taking advantage of short term volatility through tax loss harvesting can lead to a nice tax perk that can aid in your overall financial return on investments in the long run.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our advisors for complimentary portfolio review, you can schedule a consultation here

Justin Rucci

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Meet the Team: Veronica Cabral

Welcome to our current edition of “Meet the Team.” We sat down with Veronica Cabral, Director of Operations and Chief Compliance Officer at Warren Street, to learn more about her role, hobbies, and goals for the future. Join us in getting to know Veronica below!

In your role as Director of Operations and Chief Compliance Officer, how do you assist Warren Street’s clients?

I manage all our business processes and workflows on the backend, so our associates and advisors have a streamlined process when serving our clients. 

In my new role as Chief Compliance Officer, I also keep an eye on everything compliance-related to make sure we have the right systems and programs in place to protect our clients. 

How does Warren Street align with your personal values?

At Warren Street, we have a really big emphasis on putting clients’ best interests first and always being transparent and honest. I try to lead a similar life personally with my family and friends. I like to try to put others first and consider how my actions affect them. I’m also really big on being open, honest, and transparent. I carry those values back and forth between work and my personal life. 

What do you love most about working at Warren Street?

What I love most is the flexibility I’ve had with my role. What I mean by that is at a really large corporation, I might have gotten boxed into a specific role. Because we are a smaller firm, I’ve been able to grow and take on many responsibilities quickly. I really appreciate the flexibility and trust that Cary and Blake have placed in me to explore and not just stay comfortable.

What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Professionally, taking on the role of Chief Compliance Officer. It’s definitely a lot of responsibility, but I’m thankful for the trust that’s been placed in me.

Personally, my biggest accomplishment has been my husband and I buying our house!

Who or what motivates you?

I was born in Mexico, so my parents came here when I was two. Knowing that they left what was super comfortable for them back home to come here to fight for a better life motivates me to honor their sacrifice. I want to make sure that we are always getting better with every generation. My family and husband both motivate me every day to be my best for them. 

What are your aspirations?

Professionally, I’d love to stay at Warren Street and continue to grow with the company. 

Personally, I hope to build on my Vee Make Cents brand, expanding the platform and formalizing educational programs that empower young women to get more comfortable with money. 

What are three fun facts about you?

1. I was born in Mexico, and Spanish was my first language. I’m still fluent. I didn’t start learning English until kindergarten, and I wasn’t immersed in an English classroom until third grade.

2. I played water polo in high school. (I started swimming first, which is normally done in reverse order!) I was one of the smallest girls on the team, but I tried to keep up.

3. My husband and I just spent six months on a new home build. We currently have no decor, so all suggestions are welcome! 

If you would like an introduction to Warren Street, but only speak Spanish, Veronica can join calls to help translate and address any of your questions. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with her. 

Cary Facer

Founder and Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Actions to Take in a Market Downturn

Market downturns are an expected part of investing, but they can be painful and nerve-racking nonetheless. Investors often want to take action or make changes during these times. Predicting which way the market will move in the short term is nearly impossible; short-term changes usually work against us. Below you will find some actions that you can take during a market pullback that will often yield positive results.  

Here are some potential actions to take during a market downturn:  

  • Continue to invest. Market downturns may provide an opportunity to buy into the market at a lower entry point. Consider increasing your savings and investing rate during this time.  
  • Tax loss harvesting. Loss harvesting is a way to turn lemons into lemonade. Loss harvesting allows investors to take advantage of their portfolio losses by realizing the losses and using them to reduce taxable income.  
  • Hold off on large withdrawals. Wait until the market recovers to make larger-than-usual portfolio withdrawals.  
  • Overall financial planning check-up. Now is a good time to take care of any financial planning items that have been lingering on your to-do list. Check your beneficiaries, review your estate documents, and review your insurance coverage. The market is not in your control, so take a minute to review and manage anything that is in your control.  
  • Check your 401(k) allocation and contributions. Make sure you are on track to receive any company matching contributions.  
  • Roth conversions. Roth conversions are case-by-case specific, but generally speaking periods of market volatility may create opportunities for Roth conversions. The idea is to convert funds from a Regular to a Roth IRA while your account value is low, decreasing the amount of tax generated from the conversion. Assuming the market eventually recovers, your newly converted Roth dollars will appreciate tax free (assuming you meet all the other criteria necessary for Roth tax treatment). This scenario works best when you are in a low tax bracket and have the cash to pay tax on the conversion.
  • Rebalance your portfolio. Rebalancing your portfolio often forces you to sell high and buy low, even during periods of market downturn. By rebalancing during volatility, you are selling the funds that have held up better (typically bonds and other diversifiers), and reinvesting into the areas that have pulled back. This forces you to “buy the dip.” If/when the weaker parts of your portfolio recover, you participate more fully.  
  • Reevaluate your risk level. Market corrections provide an opportunity to increase your risk level (i.e., your stock exposure) and to take advantage of lower stock prices.  Typically these periods are not a good time to lower risk by selling stocks unless your goals and/or investment time horizon has changed.  

Usually the best action is no action. If you’re not in a position to save more, sticking to your long-term allocation and plan is likely the best way to weather market turbulence. Market corrections will continue to happen over the course of your investing life. While overall the long term trend tends to be upward, corrections will typically happen every few years.  During turbulent times, emotional decision-making often works against us.

The chart below illustrates how the S&P 500 has performed after a variety of global events and conflicts since 1950.  You can see that in most cases, the market has had strong performance in the years following a crisis.  

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. If you would like to speak with one of our advisors for complimentary portfolio review, you can schedule a consultation here

Emily Balmages, CFP®, CRTP

Director of Financial Planning, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Get to Know our Founding Partner, Cary Facer!

Ever wonder where the “Warren” in “Warren Street” came from? It’s actually the middle name of Founding Partner Cary Facer (“Street” is the last name of Blake, our other founding partner). 


Cary has long been a face of the firm, but there’s much more to him than his “Founding Partner and Wealth Advisor” title alone. Get to know Cary as we discuss everything from motivations to challenges in the interview below! And be sure to check out our other team member introductions.

Why did you decide to start Warren Street?

I started Warren Street Wealth Advisors out of frustration. After three years at a large financial firm, I realized how heavily these firms push their own products on clients, creating a major conflict of interest. I went independent so I could have the creative control needed to find financial solutions that truly helped my clients.

How does Warren Street align with your personal values? 

Open, honest, transparent. Nothing to hide. I’ve always lived my life that way, and I strive to foster that environment every day at Warren Street. Clients should be able to share openly and honestly what’s on their hearts and minds, so we can all build a culture of trust in the work we do together.

What makes Warren Street unique?

Being independent not only allows us to do what we truly believe is in clients’ best interest, but it also allows creative flexibility. We do much more than investing and financial planning for our clients. We host March Market Madness, we send our clients a pound of See’s chocolates every holiday, and we just introduced Warren the Whale, our mascot! Whales are a symbol of transformation, reminding clients they have the power to transform their lives in extraordinary ways. Plus, he makes for a good stress ball to squeeze in difficult moments. 

What do you love most about working at Warren Street?

I love seeing our team thrive. There’s not a better feeling than hearing that a team member’s success at work has impacted their personal life for the better.

What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?

I’d have to say starting Warren Street with Blake and finding success in a quick six years. It hasn’t all been roses, but it’s been real. Having a successful business partner is no different than having a successful marriage. It takes commitment, honesty, and a willingness to say difficult things. If you look at how successful our team is, it’s a sign as to the passion and trust we place in each other, and in them.

Who or what motivates you? 

My two kids. I have two boys, ages 9 and 8, and all I try to do is be a good role model for them and their peers. I coach just about anything I can for two reasons: (1) to spend quality time with them and (2) to help and mentor other kids who are struggling in life or need a healthy outlet. 

I also love motorsports and have gotten back into racing competitively. Everyone thinks they’re a good driver until they race. When I started… I was a terrible driver and made all kinds of mistakes. The weird part was, I enjoyed being terrible at it. It’s so humbling. At 40, I could easily stick to things I’m great at, but I enjoy grinding my way up through extremely difficult challenges. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and I’m always motivated to be better. 

What are three fun facts about you?

  1. I started racing BMX when I was five years old. 
  2. Having been born into a vegetarian family, I didn’t eat meat for 39 years. I recently started eating meat and let me say, I’m busy making up for it. 
  3. I recently realized I can still run a five-minute mile (shoutout to my coaches at Hit the Mark Fitness)!

For more than 15 years, Cary has helped many retirees maximize their retirement. He has hosted over 130 retirement planning workshops to help more individuals secure a financial future for themselves. 

If you’re interested in meeting Cary in person, register here for an in-person event (including dinner!) or schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your financial goals. We look forward to hearing from you!

Veronica Torres

Director of Operations, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Series I Bonds: Are They Right For You?

Series I bonds offer a low-risk, interest-earning addition to your portfolio. As part of a well-diversified portfolio strategy, now may be a good time to put some additional cash into I bonds and take advantage of an attractive interest rate.

What is a Series I bond?

A Series I bond is issued by the US Treasury. The bond accrues interest monthly until it reaches 30 years or you cash it, whichever comes first.

An I bond has two interest rates – the fixed rate and the inflation rate. These two rates combine to determine a bond owner’s actual rate of return, called the composite rate. A new rate will be set every six months based on the fixed rate and on inflation.

The US Treasury limits the composite rate to no less than 0%, meaning the rate of return on I bonds will never be negative.

What’s the benefit?

The composite rate on Series I bonds is currently 9.62% (annualized). Though the interest rate is variable and will change over time, purchasing I bonds now guarantees that you will earn this interest rate until October 2022 when the new rate is set for the next 6 months.

Are there risks?

An I bond is considered an extremely low risk investment. However, the ultimate rate of return is variable and not guaranteed beyond the current 6-month rate. The current interest rate is high because inflation is higher than usual – if Federal Reserve policy reduces inflation the inflation rate for I bonds will also decrease.

Note that an I bond cannot be redeemed for at least one year after purchase, and any redemption between years 1 and 3 does not receive the interest from the three months prior to redemption.

How do I buy a Series I bond?

Visit treasurydirect.gov to purchase electronic I bonds. An I bond must be purchased directly by the investor; it is not something your advisor can add to your portfolio for you. Series I bonds purchased electronically come in any amount to the penny for $25 or more. Paper I bonds can be purchased using your federal income tax refund. The amount of a bond purchased is limited to $10,000 per person per year.

Are I bonds right for me?

Determining what investments are the best fit for you depends on several factors: your age, the timeline for when you need to withdraw from investments, your comfort with risk, and your overall financial health. If you have some cash that is not part of your basic emergency fund and you do not need it in the next 1-3 years, I bonds may be a good choice. However, as with all investing decisions, we recommend consulting with your financial advisor to determine if I bonds are the best fit for your unique situation.

Kirsten C. Cadden, CFP®

Associate Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Perks of a California Retirement

Having a comfortable retirement doesn’t necessarily mean leaving The Golden State behind.

In our California-based advising firm we often see clients who would like to move out of the state at retirement (or sooner). There are plenty of reasons to re-settle, and if your only reason is “I want to” then that is good enough for us. But the retirement of your dreams doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pack up and move. Call us biased…but we love The Golden State! 

The State Tax Problem

A major concern for Californians is taxes. Our top state tax bracket is the highest in the nation. However, a retiree’s taxable income is not often in the highest bracket. The tax rates for most middle (and even upper-middle) class taxpayers are comparable to, and sometimes lower than, those in several other states.

To illustrate: in 2021 a single California taxpayer’s taxable income between $61,215 and $375,221 will be taxed at 9.3%. Compare that to a nice midwestern state like Minnesota. Their very top tax bracket is 9.85%, but it starts at taxable income over $166,041. So if your taxable income is between $166,041 and $375,221, you will pay similar state taxes whether you are in California or Minnesota.

Let’s look at a more realistic retirement income. Taxable income in retirement for an average married couple might be around $85,000. In California, their effective state tax rate for 2021 would be about 2.40%. If the couple decided to move to Arizona (a low tax state) in retirement, their effective state tax rate would be about 1.87%. That’s a difference of just $450 per year. Uprooting and moving states to save $450 in a year may not really be worth it!

It is true that state taxes are much lower in many other states. There are even states with no state income tax. But these states offset their lack of income tax with sales tax, property taxes, and other local taxes. The bottom line is: no state is going to let you put down roots for free. While California certainly is not the most taxpayer friendly state, for a large portion of residents the higher tax brackets are not going to be a factor.

Quality of Life in California

Two major considerations for quality of life are staying physically active and staying socially engaged. We know that a sedentary, perpetually isolated lifestyle is bad for your health. The mild-to-warm weather in California means your favorite activities can usually continue year-round, keeping you moving and socializing consistently throughout your life.

California has something for everyone. Do you prefer vibrant evenings out in the city or quiet mountain escapes? Yoga on the beach? Pickleball in the suburbs? Hiking in the desert? It’s all here.

Why Warren Street Loves CA

Why else does our team love California? When asked “What are some reasons a person might want to retire in California?” here is what we had to say:

  • “Many job prospects for those who want to have a part-time retirement living.”
  • “On the tax note, Prop 13 and Prop 19 can keep CA property taxes low.”
  • “Good access to medical care and good doctors in most of CA.”  
  • “Diverse population and diverse cultures in CA.”  
  • “California is a great hub for entertainment and tourism.” 
  • “Home to multiple beaches, national parks, etc.” 
  • “CA is the largest municipal bond market by issuance.” 
  • “In-N-Out.”

Every state has something great to offer. Above all, we love to see our clients happy and living their best life – before and after retirement.

Do you want to continue your California dream after you retire? Or do you want to try somewhere new? Whatever your goals, Warren Street is here to help you make them reality.

Kirsten C. Cadden, CFP®

Associate Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

References:

https://www.thebalance.com/state-income-tax-rates-3193320

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/taxes/california-state-tax

https://smartasset.com/taxes/california-tax-calculator

Part 3: A Lookback at Q1 and Portfolio Impact

If you’re talking with friends about market volatility, pessimists may say “downward is the only way forward,” but optimists like us will continue to share the sentiment that “We Will Prevail,” which is based on our assessment of history, data, and our go-forward market outlook.

For those of you who caught that subtle reference from the movie Inception, maybe you’re getting a taste for how big of a cinephile I am. For those who didn’t – no sweat; let’s wrap up this series of blog releases by assessing the first quarter’s market performance. 

Before diving in, it’s important to note the macroeconomic trends that are primarily driving market risk: 1) the tightening of financial conditions and 2) the war in Eastern Europe. The Federal Reserve and other Central Banks are raising interest rates to calm inflation. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had knock-on effects economically, particularly in Europe. With that in mind, see below for how markets are ending the first quarter.

Exhibit A – Asset Class Performance in 2022

Source: YCharts

The Laggards

Looking at Exhibit A, bonds, followed by US Large Growth names (i.e., AMZN, AAPL), and international stocks (i.e., emerging markets and Europe stocks) are lagging. 

  • Bonds Begrudgingly Behind: recent bond volatility can be attributed to inflation and rising interest rates. Inflation diminishes the purchasing power of a bond’s interest payments, while interest rate hikes apply downward price pressure on the value of a bond (you can now find a similar bond in the market yielding a higher rate). 
  • Growth Names Falter: This asset class includes larger companies that are typically more expensive (e.g., Amazon, Apple), with stock prices that are highly dependent on future earnings growth. However, rising interest rates are raising the cost of borrowing, which depletes the value of a company’s future cash flows and are skewing growth names to the downside.

Exhibit B – How Are Big Tech Stocks Doing?

  • International Stocks Give Up Ground: At the start of the year, international stocks including European, Australian, and Far East (EAFE) and Emerging Markets (e.g., China, Brazil) equities outperformed domestic markets. US markets were being punished for an overweight to growthier names amid interest rate hikes. Most recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dampened investor appetite for the international scene, overturning the region’s initial outperformance. 

Exhibit C – The Race Between International and the US

Source: YCharts

Leaders

  • Gold Shines Bright: After a lackluster 2021, gold regained its shine this past quarter. Geopolitical uncertainty, coupled with a distrust of central banks to tame inflation, has resulted in sizable outperformance from the precious metal.
  • Value Names Triumph: While US Large Growth suffers from tighter financial conditions, investors are paying more attention to company profitability. US Large Value typically consists of companies that are larger, have a long-standing business model, and proven profitability. Examples include Target, Walmart, and Disney. 
  • S&P 500 Recovers: After a weak start to the year (at one point being down 12% year-to-date), the S&P 500 has largely regained lost ground. Although the expectation of rate hikes remains a risk to the broader index, domestic markets have been favorable given a relatively unthreatening economic impact from the Eastern European war.

Takeaways, Portfolio Impact and Our Game Plan

Takeaways – Is the 60/40 Portfolio Dead? A 60/40 portfolio has long been coveted as the standard for a “moderate” risk investor, with a 60% allocation to stocks and a 40% allocation to bonds. The bond allocation is meant to mitigate volatility during downturns, but with today’s largely challenged bond environment, the asset class has not cushioned investors during this recent equity sell-off. 

Source: YCharts

Exhibit C includes the annual returns of a 60/40 portfolio, the global stock index (Ticker: ACWI), and the passive bond index (Ticker: AGG). Over the years, bonds have served as a protector against equity volatility, capturing a fraction of an equity market drawdown. However, thus far in 2022, bonds are selling off more than equities. Therefore, investors should not expect to receive similar risk-adjusted returns they did in the past for a traditional 60/40 portfolio – at least in the near term.  

Portfolio Impact – Thinking Outside the Box: With the 60/40 structure in jeopardy and bonds to endure some short-term pain, a different approach should be considered. Enter Warren Street’s Real Assets sleeve – or what we like to call “Diversifiers” – which consist of real assets that typically benefit from inflation (i.e., gold, natural resources, and real estate).

Last summer, after acknowledging the adverse circumstances of the bond realm, Warren Street proceeded to underweight bonds and overweight diversifiers within blended models on top of initiating a position in a commodities fund. This trade has rewarded our portfolios and cushioned the bond and equity sleeves amid the most recent 2022 sell-off.

Our Game Plan – An International Resurgence: With Diversifiers outpacing stocks, our team rebalanced real assets into equity weakness, effectively selling high and buying low. We will continue to monitor momentum within Diversifiers and the bond landscape before returning to our neutral weights. 

The looming question remains on our equity strategy, which incurred relative underperformance attributed to our overseas exposures. Although Russia’s military invasion overturned initial outperformance against domestic markets (see Exhibit C), we believe there is significant headroom for an international equity resurgence should the war abate. 

Albeit still unpredictable, Ukrainian resistance is increasing the probability for a ceasefire. Couple that with the pandemic transitioning to an endemic, a US market that is more sensitive to central bank reserve tightening and attractive valuations overseas, we continue to remain optimistic about our clients being rewarded for their patience and for avoiding home-country bias. 

Conclusion

You’ll hear us say it time and time again: control what you can control. Throughout this quarter, our team has tax-loss harvested in accounts amid sell-offs, rebalanced diversifiers into equity weakness, and thoroughly assessed the impact of conditions #1 and #2 mentioned above in our portfolios.

Outside of portfolio strategy, we’ve made strides in uploading more content on socials, blogs, and video formats to upkeep communications beyond our client meetings. We encourage you to read recent blog releases pertaining to the war in Ukraine and to give us a follow on social media. 

Ultimately, the movie inception is about planting an idea and allowing it to grow. I’m no extractor or architect of dreams, but let me attempt to fortify my parting idea once more: “We Will Prevail.”

Phillip Law, Portfolio Analyst

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Part 2: Assessing War and the State of the Global Economy

Don’t Miss the Big Picture 

With news outlets centered on Eastern Europe, it is easy to miss the bigger economic picture both globally and domestically. For a broader assessment, it helps to understand how Russia fits into the global economy. Prior to the invasion, the Kremlin represented just 3.11% of global GDP.  

To further illustrate, Exhibit A and Exhibit B portray the size of Russia’s economy, population, and percent makeup of the global stock market compared to other countries. Looking at Exhibit A, Russia has the largest population of this subset, yet its economy (the size of the bubble) is smaller than Texas. Thus, the war’s direct effect on global growth was already limited even before indices deemed Russia as “uninvestable” or before western parties imposed sanctions.  

Exhibit A – Russia’s Economy is Smaller Than Texas 

Exhibit B – Russia is Miniscule compared to the US, China, and India  

Zooming out in Exhibit B, you can assess just how small Russia is relative to the United States and its Asian neighbors China and India.  

The State of the West 

Before discussing other nations, let’s cover our home turf. Within the United States, we have successfully fended off the Omicron wave. COVID-19 data is trending in the right direction, pandemic related pressures (i.e., labor market, car prices) are slowly easing (Exhibit C), and consumer balance sheets are rock-solid (Exhibit D).  

Exhibit C: The Labor Market is Loosening, and Inventories are Building 

Exhibit D.1: Debt as a % of Consumer Incomes

Exhibit D.2: Consumers Have a Record $2.4T in “Excess Savings”

Although the threats of additional COVID-19 variants and prolonged inflation linger, our economy is expected to produce above-trend economic growth (see Exhibit E). In fact, economists remain optimistic about the US economy, with the median 2022 real gross domestic product forecast only revised 0.10% downwards after the invasion of Ukraine.  

Other major economies (particularly in Europe) are more at risk for an economic slowdown attributed to higher energy prices (i.e., over $120/barrel for Brent Crude driven), or what we call “pain at the pump.”  

Although Europe derives 40%+ of its natural gas from Russia and Ukraine, we expect that new measures targeting energy independence and militaristic efforts will have positive long-standing effects on European growth despite interim road bumps. For some near-term perspective, European nations are still expected to grow GDP above their long-term forecasts in 2022 (see Exhibit E).

Exhibit E: How Much Are Our Economies Expected to Grow in 2022?

Commodity Chaos – Not to be Overlooked 

Although the war’s direct effect on global growth is likely to be meager, indirect pressures on commodity prices are a larger concern, as they may diminish the purchasing power of disposable incomes. Russia is the world’s second largest oil producer behind the US, and accounts for 12% of global production. Also, Russia and Ukraine make up 25% of global wheat exports, 33% of global corn trade, and 80% of sunflower oil production.  

What happens if sanctions are imposed, or if nations surrender agricultural practices to fight on the battlefield? The price of electricity in your factories will rise. Middle eastern nations reliant on wheat imports (i.e., Egypt and Lebanon) must ration appropriately. Chinese-grown hogs – which feed on corn – are more expensive to raise. Lastly, the price of that bag of Ruffles (made from sunflower oil) is expected to increase. 

Exhibit F: Commodity Prices Are Rising

Where Do We Go from Here? 

Could this lead to inflation? Yes – we have already seen commodity prices surge exponentially. Does this mean that the US economy will fall to its knees? The probability of that is very low.  

After all, two-thirds of our nation’s economy is consumption-driven, and with consumers looking healthy and a central bank easing the economy into a higher rate environment, it is hard to envision a full-scale economic disaster unfolding. Even if we run into a recession, perhaps it will be much smaller than our recent lived experiences of the Great Recession and the Great Lockdown (2020 COVID-19 Pandemic).  

Our European neighbors will be more vulnerable over the next three months, especially with an energy embargo on Russia still on the table. However, between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz mobilizing its military (for the first time in 20 years), renewed sentiment on energy independence, and a newfound unity amongst the entire West, the European economy is exuberating a different luster and willingness to grow than it did in previous years. Should this war abate, we believe Europe could resume course towards full recovery and investors with allocations will be rewarded. 

A Stronger West, Once the War is Put to Rest 

Ultimately, our sentiment from part 1 of this series that “We Will Prevail” has not changed. We have endured many instances of short-term pain and come out victorious. This time is no different. I am confident that our economies – particularly the West — will emerge stronger and more united after this war is put to rest.  

Stay tuned in part 3 where we discuss asset class performance and portfolio impact! 

Phillip Law, Portfolio Analyst

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Part 1: We Will Prevail

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

– Vladimir Lenin

The words of Lenin, who led the Russian Revolution in 1917, are ringing true in his own country over 100 years later. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine took the world, and financial markets, by storm. For investors, initial instincts may prompt feelings of worry, and rightfully so.

After all, homes are collapsing, buildings are burning, and civilians are being displaced in what publications are calling the biggest war in Europe since 1945. First and foremost, we empathize with the human concerns and humanitarian disaster resulting from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We believe that a broad understanding of the market’s relationship with geopolitical crises, the state of the global economy, and the war’s impact on broad asset classes will help investors navigate this turbulent time.

This series will aim to address the concerns that arise for investors and global markets during such times.

Weathering the Storm

In an era where G20 nations are accustomed to diplomacy, the impact of war on markets may seem foreign. However, we can turn to history to help distinguish relationships between capital returns and warfare. Below is a chart showing the growth of $10,000 invested in the S&P 500 since 1950, overlayed with a myriad of events.

Exhibit A1

Looking back, the S&P 500 grappled with numerous instances of geopolitical turmoil, nationwide systemic meltdowns, and a global pandemic. Despite these vulnerabilities, notice the trend and direction of that initial $10k: it consistently recovers and grows over time Furthermore, Exhibit B features returns 12, 24, and 36 months after the market bottomed in each war.

Exhibit B 

These charts convey two things:

  1.  Despite volatile periods, investors have generally been rewarded for putting their capital at risk.
  2.  Human beings are incredibly resilient. We’ve lived through arduous events, gritted our teeth, and made it to the other side.

Some people are comparing this conflict to World War II, but we disagree given that the battle is regionally contained and the US is unlikely to become directly involved. The conflict can, and likely will, get worse. But the probability of another world war is low.  

The outcome of Russia’s invasion is difficult to predict. Whether Putin succeeds in establishing a puppet government in Kyiv or a ceasefire is negotiated, we have faith that humankind will persevere and that capital will continue to seek the most efficient allocators, leading to long-term positive returns. In other words, we will prevail.

Phillip Law, Portfolio Analyst

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Footnotes & Sources:

  1. Chart is not log-scaled and thus understates market return volatility.