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Financial Wellness: How to Be Resilient During a Crisis

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Financial wellness during crisis

financial wellness during crisis

This infographic is available as a poster.

Financial Wellness: How to Be Resilient During a Crisis

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 90% of Americans feel anxious about money. These stress levels are the same across all income groups.

Unfortunately, financially-stressed people are more likely to face physical and mental health challenges. For example, people with high debt stress during the 2008 financial crisis had higher levels of back tension, severe depression, and anxiety.

In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we take a look at the current state of financial health, and highlight ways people can improve their financial wellness during a crisis.

A Current Snapshot

Financial health is the degree to which people are able to be resilient and take advantage of opportunities over time. It rests on eight indicators:

  • Spend: Spend less than income and pay bills on time
  • Save: Have sufficient liquid savings and long-term savings
  • Borrow: Have manageable debt and a prime credit score
  • Plan: Have appropriate insurance and plan ahead financially

Based on these factors, individuals fall along a spectrum of financial health. In the U.S., only about 28% of people were considered to be financially healthy in a 2019 study.

Clearly, many Americans were already facing challenging circumstances prior to the pandemic. Here are a couple of the top issues.

More Complexity

Finances have become more complicated over time.

For many years, workers could rely on defined benefit pension plans that paid a set amount in retirement. In recent decades, pensions have primarily shifted to defined contribution plans. These require the employee to make investment decisions and build their own nest egg.

Unfortunately, financial education has not kept pace with the rising need for knowledge. Fewer than half of U.S. states require high school students to take a course in personal finance.

“Money Talk” Taboo

To build financial literacy, individuals would benefit from talking more openly about money. However, 44% of Americans surveyed would rather talk about religion, death, or politics than discuss personal finance with a loved one.

Fears of embarrassment and conflict are major emotional roadblocks that hamper financial progress. What can individuals do to improve their financial wellness, especially during a crisis?

Building Resiliency

People can follow a step-by-step strategy to optimize their financial situation.

  1. Assess their current situation.

    Uncertainty can be a major source of anxiety. To identify the source of stress—and determine if it’s warranted—investors can take stock of their income, expenses, savings, and debts.

    Financial self-awareness is positively associated with greater financial satisfaction, and stronger spending and investing decisions.

  2. Prepare for the worst-case scenario.

    What can individuals do if they lose their job or see a prolonged drop in retirement savings?

    Investors can consider various options, such as taking on freelance work, cutting unnecessary expenses, or increasing retirement plan contributions. Then, they can “stress test” their financial plan to account for these scenarios and begin preparing as best they can.

  3. Break goals into small chunks.

    Specific, achievable, and measurable goals are easier to manage. For example, rather than having a goal to pay down $51,000 in debt, an individual could aim to make monthly payments of $850 over five years.

    By setting smaller goals, investors can take action to make progress. Research has shown that achieving quick wins makes people more likely to achieve their financial goals.

  4. Improve financial knowledge and openness.

    Investors can educate themselves as much as possible—people with high investment knowledge are proven to be more prepared and less anxious.

     Has planned for retirementFeels anxious when thinking about personal financesHas emergency savings
    Low Investment Knowledge62%48%78%
    High Investment Knowledge73%21%90%

    People can also take steps to break financial taboos with loved ones, by starting with simple conversations about experience and building to more concrete discussions about family finances. The ability to talk about money is one of the most important skills for building financial literacy.

  5. Create long-term, purposeful goals.

    Setting the right goals helps investors define their own parameters for success, which in turn keeps them focused and motivated. It’s also important to monitor goal progress regularly, to allow for portfolio or contribution adjustments as needed.

Taking Charge

Financial crises can strike at any point in time, whether it’s due to personal circumstances or an economic downturn.

To improve their situation, people can focus on the controllable elements of financial health: spending, saving, borrowing, and planning. This allows investors to emerge with a stronger, more resilient plan than they had before the crisis.

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Infographics

Demystifying Three Bond Myths During Rising Rates

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all doom and gloom for bonds during rising interest rates. Below, we dispel three myths to explain why.

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Bonds During Rising Interest Rates

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Demystifying Three Bond Myths During Rising Rates

Today U.S. Treasury yields, a key return measure for bonds, are over 1% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

  • January 2020: 1.8%
  • May 2022: 2.9*

*As of May 17, 2022

While rising interest rates are often seen to have a negative impact on bonds, the current environment may be beneficial.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we debunk three common myths about bonds during rising rate environments to explain why.

Bonds During Rising Interest Rates

To start, here’s a brief introduction on how bond yields are affected by interest rates.

Bond yields are the return investors will earn from a bond over a period of time. Bond investors receive interest for purchasing debt issued by the government or a corporation. For instance, a $1,000 bond with a 3% yield would earn $30 annually.

Rising interest rates directly affect bonds.

When interest rates rise, bond yields typically rise. As investors seek out new bonds that provide higher yields (income), the demand for existing lower-yielding bonds declines. Consequently, the price of these existing bonds typically falls.

Given this backdrop, let’s explore how bonds have historically performed during rising rates, the potential buying opportunities they present, and their long-term performance in a rising rate climate.

Myth #1: “Never Hold Bonds During a Rising Rate Environment”

Answer: False

Even during multiple rising rate periods, bonds have shown positive performance in the last 38 out of 42 years. Let’s take a look at the two most recent rising rate periods:

Bond TypeJun 2004 - Jul 2006Dec 2015 - Jan 2019Average
Bank Loans5.90%5.20%5.50%
Short-Term Bonds2.90%1.10%2.00%
Long-Term Bonds5.60%2.70%4.10%
High-Yield Bonds8.40%7.50%7.90%
Municipal Bonds8.40%2.70%3.80%

Time periods measured from the first Federal Reserve rate hike until one month after the last rate hike, which, on average, is when the effective federal funds rate tends to stabilize.
Source: Morningstar (Feb 2022)

As shown above, every type of bond showed positive performance.

High-yield bonds returned the highest over the last two rising rate periods, averaging 7.9%. Not only that, when equities decline, bonds have often cushioned losses, as seen in the Great Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 market crash.

Myth #2: “This Is the Worst Time to Invest In Bonds”

Answer: False

Rather than doom and gloom, the current environment could present a buying opportunity. Consider how municipal (muni) bonds have performed after historically low periods:

Time PeriodPeak DateTrough DateDrawdown (%)Return (%) 12 Months
Following Trough
Fed Rate Rise (‘04 - ‘06)Mar 17, 2004May 13, 2004-5.298.65
Subprime Mortgage Collapse/
Global Financial Crisis
Jan 23, 2008Oct 16, 2008-11.2219.85
Meredith Whitney
60 Minutes Interview
Oct 12, 2010Jan 17, 2011-6.4615.2
Taper TantrumMay 2, 2013Sep 5, 2013-6.7710.22
Trump Election VictoryJul 6, 2016Dec 1, 2016-5.715.95
COVID-19Mar 9, 2020Mar 23, 2020-10.9413.18
Fed Rate Rise (‘22)Aug 4, 2021Mar 16, 2022-5.59?

Municipal bonds represented by Bloomberg Municipal Bond Index. Data is for the time period 1/1/1994 to 4/30/2022. Meredith Whitney is known as “The Oracle of Wall Street”. In 2010, when Whitney stated that many municipal bonds would default in 2010, it shocked the market.
Source: Morningstar (Apr 2022)

In the 12 months following each trough date, muni bonds rebounded notably.

For example, after falling over 11% during the Global Financial Crisis, munis returned nearly 20% in the 12 months after. Munis also could potentially benefit from other key factors including solid credit fundamentals and the $350 billion federal stimulus to state and local budgets.

Not only that as bond prices dip, a “buy low” opportunity may be present not only in munis, but other areas of the bond market.

Myth #3: “The Long-Term View Looks Dismal”

Answer: False

When taking a long-term perspective, investors could potentially generate more income from their bond holdings in a rising rate environment than they would have otherwise.

Here’s how investors can capitalize on rising rates as bonds mature, given the following assumptions:

  1. Every year, a maturing bond is replaced with a new 5-year bond.
  2. The yield is 20 basis points (bps) higher on each new bond.
ScenarioDescriptionAnnualized Return of Bond Portfolio
After 10 Years
Scenario 1Yields remain unchanged1.80%
Scenario 2Yields fall 100bps across the curve
during Year 1
1.10%
Scenario 3Yields rise 100bps across the curve
during Year 1
2.50%

Hypothetical example, for illustrative purposes only. One basis point is equal to 1/100th of 1%, or 0.01%, or 0.0001, and is used to denote the percentage change in a financial instrument.
Source: RBC Global Asset Management (2020)

Over the long term, a rising rate environment more than doubled the bond portfolio’s return compared to the falling rate scenario.

With this in mind, active management and a long-term strategy can potentially benefit investors during today’s rising interest rate environment.

Research shows that active approaches to fixed income have generally outperformed passive strategies by diversifying across the maturity spectrum while proactively balancing risk and return. Active strategies can seek out new opportunities as interest rates shift, addressing a broader scope of the bond market.

The Case for Bonds

With inflation and bond yields on the rise, purchasing newly-issued bonds at higher rates can help offset this impact. While bonds may not seem like the obvious choice for investors amid rising rates, history shows us that they may be worth a closer look.

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Infographics

Rising Rates: Why Value Stocks Have Outperformed

During periods of rising interest rates, value stocks have historically outperformed growth. Below, we explain the factors behind this trend.

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Value Stocks

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The Benefits of Value Stocks in Rising Rate Environments

As investors flock to safety, value stocks have outperformed growth stocks year-to-date amid economic turbulence and rising interest rates.

Owing to their strong fundamentals and cash flows, value stocks may be returning into favor.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we illustrate why value stocks offer opportunities in rising rate periods.

Recent Performance

In a matter of two years, the Ukraine war, supply chain shocks, and COVID-19 have led inflation to multi-decade highs.

Amid these complex struggles, value stocks have outperformed significantly.

  • Russell 1000 Value Index: -1.1%
  • Russell 1000 Growth Index: -14.1%
  • S&P 500: -8.4%

As of April 14, 2022

With higher inflation predicted for the medium term, value stocks may be staging a comeback.

As investors look to de-risk their portfolios, many are turning to value stocks, thanks in part to their historical outperformance during inflationary and rising rate periods.

Value vs. Growth: Key Characteristics

As a quick refresher, here are the key distinctions between value stocks and growth stocks.

CharacteristicValue InvestingGrowth Investing
Defining FeaturesCompanies with stronger cash flows, steady income, priced below intrinsic value.Companies with lower cash flows, low (if any) income, strong earnings growth potential.
ValuationUndervalued (low P/E ratios)Overvalued (high P/E ratios)
DividendsMore commonLess common
VolatilityLowerHigher
SectorsFinancials, Energy, Healthcare, IndustrialsTech, Communications, Consumer Discretionary

Cyclical sectors such as financials and energy often benefit when prices increase after an economic contraction.

Since companies earn money in different ways, it is often useful to compare price-to-earning (P/E) ratios within a sector. A P/E ratio is a metric for valuing a company, where a company’s stock price is divided by its earnings per share.

An overvalued company in the tech sector may have a P/E ratio of 100, while the S&P sector average is 24. By contrast, an undervalued healthcare company may have a P/E ratio of 14, lower than the S&P sector average of 16.

When a company is undervalued it means that it’s trading below its intrinsic value.

Value vs. Growth: Performance

Looking back, the previous decade saw the worst performance for value in the last 90 years.

On average, growth outperformed value by 7.8% annually since 2010. However, looking at 10-year periods, value has outperformed growth over every decade since the 1940s.

DecadeValue Outperformance
1930s-0.5%
1940s10.8%
1950s5.6%
1960s4.2%
1970s8.1%
1980s7.4%
1990s0.7%
2000s8.0%
2010s-2.6%

Average annual performance of Fama and French (“HML”) value factor by decade.
Source: Fama & French via Mercer (Mar 2021)

Now, against economic uncertainty and other structural shifts, the growth and value divergence is beginning to change for the first time in over a decade.

What is Driving Value Stocks?

On a broader level, the following forces have driven outperformance in value stocks and growth stocks.

 Value InvestingGrowth Investing

Broad Market Factors
  • Rising interest rates
  • Market recovery
  • Inflationary environment
  • Long-term earnings track record
  • Low interest rates
  • Bull market
  • Disinflationary environment
  • Rising corporate earnings

So how do these apply today?

In an inflationary (and rising rate) period, current earnings become more valuable and future earnings become less valuable. Typically, “value stocks” are assessed based on their current earnings while “growth stocks” are valued on their future earnings.

Consequently, inflationary periods have tended to favor value stocks and deflationary periods have tended to favor growth stocks. When prices are climbing, companies with actual earnings are potentially better positioned to increase prices and retain profit margins.

At the same time, it is important for investors to avoid value-traps, which are companies trading below value that are in financial duress. To help mitigate this challenge, active investment managers can help identify the appropriate companies.

Sign of the Times

It’s worth noting that this isn’t about value vs. growth. Instead, different styles have performed better at different times. Of course, it’s important for investors to consider a number of variables for their portfolios:

With these in mind, investors can implement the best strategies to help achieve their goals.

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