Chris Farrell: When the world turns chaotic, money management should be boring

A dark chapter in world history has begun with the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The Ukrainians are putting up an incredible fight. Western allies have embraced a broad sanction regime that is isolating Russia. What comes next remains deeply uncertain.

That said, the U.S. economy is resilient. There will some negative ripples of repercussions with the global economy reeling from its second major shock following the global pandemic.

Odds are U.S. inflation will inch higher since supply chain problems will worsen, and commodity prices should stay elevated. Energy costs in particular have climbed since Russian and Ukrainian exports together account for 12% of global oil production. Major shifts in geopolitical and economic relations are likely.

“We are in a new ideological conflict, not one between communists and capitalists, but one between irredentist tyranny and liberal democracy,” Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, wrote in that newspaper.

Considering the scale of the rupture with recent history, what are the implications for managing money, especially investments to pay for our children’s education and our retirement?

I’ve gone through many columns and reports with suggested strategies for protecting portfolios from downside risks and maneuvers to reap some profits from higher inflation.

Overall, I remain skeptical. Instead, I keep returning to a basic and boring recommendation: Don’t do anything different, at least not now.

My main reason for the do-nothing strategy is my assumption that your investments are well-diversified. For one thing, most of us are exposed to the markets through college savings plans and employer-sponsored retirement savings plans.

These portfolios are diversified with a mix of stocks and fixed income securities (especially considering the popularity of target date funds). For another, we’ve experienced several negative shocks over the past two decades, including 9/11, the 2008 recession, and the global pandemic. Investors have learned that diversification pays. Stick with your current strategy and tune out the market noise.

The fundamentals of personal finance are good in all seasons, but they’re particularly apt in times of stress and unusual uncertainties.

Make sure you’re diversified. Keep adding to household savings. Pay down debts. Invest in your job skills to advance your economic security.

One additional thought. I’d like to echo the call made by New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber. If you’ve enjoyed financial gains in recent years, give some of the earnings away to support the Ukrainian victims of Putin’s immoral war.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor to American Public Media’s “Marketplace” and a commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.

https://www.startribune.com/chris-farrell-when-the-world-turns-chaotic-money-management-should-be-boring/600153185/

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