How to invest in times of crisis?

Most of us know where to invest money in good times, but when it looks like the sky might be falling, knowing where to invest money and how to invest it becomes a puzzle. In 2014 and 2015 good investments might be hard to find, especially if yesterday’s good investments like stocks and bonds tank. This is not a prediction, but rather a “heads up.” You can’t prepare if you’re not aware, so let’s take a closer look at the sky.

We all know that safe choices like money market funds and bank savings accounts don’t look like good investments for 2014 because they pay peanuts. But what if the sky starts falling: either interest rates ignite and/or the stock market tanks? Either way or both… where to invest money is the question of the day. Safe choices will look like good investments for parking money that must be safe.

Wall Street’s traditional answer to where to invest money: put about 60% into stocks with about 40% in bonds holding a cash reserve on the sidelines. Problem: in 2014 and 2015 losses in stocks may not be offset by gains in bonds… as was the case for the last 30 years or so. If interest rates soar from today’s record-low levels, neither stocks nor bonds look like good investments.

For over 30 years interest rates were falling and bonds were generally good investments. With today’s ridiculously low rates (created by our government to stimulate the economy) a rebound in interest rates is in the cards (as the government unwinds its stimulus). When that happens, bonds will no longer be where to invest money for higher interest income with relative safety. Bonds are NOT good investments when rates go up; they lose money. That’s the way it works. How to invest in bonds in 2014 and 2015 if rates take off: lighten up and opt for safety.

Stocks had been very good investments five years running as the year 2014 began. This was at least in part due to government stimulus and cheap money. In a sense, stocks were where to invest money because nothing looked cheap except for money (short term interest rates were set at about one-tenth of one percent). With a gain of over 150% in five years, the downside risk in the stock market is mounting. This begs the question of how to invest money in stocks if the sky starts to look ominous.

Remember that the stock market is actually a market of stocks, which means that the vast majority of stocks get hit when the market crumbles – but at least a few will be good investments. And the best way to find good investments in a bad market is to watch the price action. For example, as the market climbed 30% in 2013, some gold stocks were down about 50% by early 2014. If you don’t know how to invest in or how to pick a specific gold stock… you might want to know where to invest money to get a piece of this action. The answer is to invest money in gold funds and let them pick the gold stocks for you.

The bottom line is that in 2014 and 2015 investors face an uphill battle, because both stocks and bonds look pricey. That presents a new challenge to today’s investor in search of where to invest money. We are facing uncharted waters in this modern electronic world, where no one really knows how to invest or where to find good investments for the future. This includes the big investors like life insurance companies and pension funds.

My suggestion is to take some profits in your stocks and bonds, because the tide will turn eventually if not in 2014 or 2015. Then you’ll have a cash reserve, so you can take advantage of the situation as the skies darkens. Smart investors are always in search of where to invest money next, especially when a change of trend is in the cards. At such times, yesterday’s underperforming sectors or industries often become today’s good investments.