The Classic 60-40 Investment Strategy Falls Apart. ‘There’s No Place to Hide.’ | Kanebridge News
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The Classic 60-40 Investment Strategy Falls Apart. ‘There’s No Place to Hide.’

A savings mix of stocks and bonds has helped offset losses in previous years—but not this one

By AKANE OTANI
Mon, Nov 14, 2022 8:46amGrey Clock 7 min

For decades, Americans planning for retirement have been advised to invest in a mixture of stocks and bonds.

The idea was simple. When stocks did well, their portfolios did, too. And when stocks had a bad year, bonds usually did better, which helped offset those losses.

It was one of the most basic, dependable ways of investing, used by millions of Americans. This year it stopped working.

Despite a powerful rally last week after cooler-than-expected inflation data, the S&P 500 is down in 2022 about 15%, including dividends, while bonds are in their first bear market in decades. A portfolio with 60% of its money invested in U.S. stocks and 40% invested in the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has lost 15% this year. That puts the 60-40 investment mix on track for its worst year since 1937, according to an analysis by investment research and asset management firm Leuthold Group.

Many Americans are seeing decades’ worth of savings shrink, week by week. Belt-tightening among millions of households could serve as yet another drag on an economy already suffering from high inflation, a slowing housing market and rapidly rising interest rates.

Eileen Pollock, a 70-year-old retiree living in Baltimore, has seen the value of her portfolio, with a roughly 60-40 mix, dip by hundreds of thousands of dollars. The former legal secretary had amassed more than a million dollars in her retirement accounts. To build her savings, she left New York to live in a less expensive city and skipped vacations for many years.

“A million dollars seems like a great deal of money, but I realised it’s not,” she said. “I saw my money was piece by large piece disappearing.”

Bonds have helped offset the pain of the previous market crises, including the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the global financial crisis of 2008, and, most recently, the brief but punishing bear market brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

This year, U.S. Treasurys are having what could wind up being their worst year going back to 1801, according to Leuthold, as central banks have swiftly raised interest rates in a bid to quell inflation. The iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond exchange-traded fund, which tracks investment-grade bonds, has lost 14% on a total return basis.

The declines weigh especially on baby boomers, who have hit retirement age in worse financial shape than the generation before them and have fewer earning years ahead to recover investment losses.

“What’s shocking investors is there’s no place to hide,” said Peter Mallouk, president and chief executive of wealth-management company Creative Planning in Overland Park, Kan. “Everything on the statement is blood red.”

In 2008—the year the housing market crashed, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and Congress agreed to an unprecedented bailout plan to rescue the financial system—bond prices soared. Investors with 60% of their money in stocks and 40% in bonds would have outperformed investors with all of their money in stocks by 23 percentage points, according to Leuthold.

Investors with a mix of stocks and bonds also came out significantly ahead of those putting all their money in stocks in 1917, the year the U.S. entered World War I; in 1930, during the Great Depression; and in 1974, after a staggering market selloff brought on by a series of crises including surging oil prices, double-digit inflation and Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal.

That final year, the S&P 500 declined 26%, including dividends. But 10-year Treasurys returned 4.1%. That meant a portfolio with 60% of its money in stocks and the remainder in bonds would have ended the year down 14%—a big hit, but still much better than the 26% loss it would have suffered had it been all in stocks.

Investors in a U.S. government bond are virtually certain to be paid their principal back when the bond matures. But before then, the bond’s value can fluctuate wildly—especially in the case of a bond that has many years before maturity. An investor holding a hypothetical older bond with a $100 face value and 1% coupon, or annual interest rate, that matures in seven years would get far less than $100 if she sold that bond today. That’s because the newest seven-year Treasury was recently issued with a coupon of 4%. To compensate for her bond coming with a much smaller coupon, the investor would have to sell at a lower price.

PIKESVILLE, MD – JUNE 29, 2022: Eileen Pollock, 70, poses for a portrait in her Pikesville home on June 29, 2022. She started cutting back spending at the beginning of the year by picking other items in the grocery store and making less library trips. CREDIT: Rosem Morton for The Wall Street Journal. PRICEPUSHBACK-MD

Miss Pollock said she wishes she didn’t have so much money tied up in the markets, but is in too deep to pull out of her investments. She has resigned herself to wait things out—hoping that the market will eventually go back up.

“If I get out of it, I’ll only lock my losses in,” she said. “I’ll just have to hang on to my belief in the American economy.”

Delaine Faris, 60, retired from her job as a project manager in 2019. She had hoped her husband, a technology consultant, could join her in a few years, based on how much their savings mix of 70% stocks and 30% bonds had grown over the previous decade. The couple took a big trip to Europe, then Argentina. They sold their house in Atlanta and moved to an exurb where they planned to settle down.

“I saved and invested responsibly and made plans,” Ms. Faris said.

Earlier this year, she strongly considered returning to work to supplement their savings. Layoffs in the technology industry have added to the couple’s worries.

She considers herself and her husband fortunate that they still have a home, his job, their health and their savings, but the past year has been a “big gut check,” she said. “Millions of us said, ‘We’re going to retire early, yay,’ and now we’re thinking, ‘Wait a second, what the heck happened?’ ”

Roughly 51% of retirees are living on less than half of their preretirement annual income, according to Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which this summer conducted a survey of retired Americans between the ages of 50 and 75. Nearly half of respondents retired early because of reasons outside their control, including poor health, losing their jobs and needing to take care of family members. Only 7% of survey respondents said they left the workforce because they had managed to save up enough money for retirement.

Most Americans said they would prefer to rely on guaranteed sources of income, like Social Security, to fund their retirement—not returns from volatile markets. But only 55% of retirees are able to do so, the firm found.

Susan Hodges, 66, and her wife decided to pull all their money out of the markets in May. “We can only take so much anxiety,” she said.

The couple, based in Rio Rancho, N.M., have since put some money back into stocks, but remained cautious, keeping roughly 10% of their overall retirement funds in the market. The couple has also become extra judicious about where and how they spend their money, cutting back on dining out and discussing online purchases with each other before pulling the trigger.

Market returns have grown increasingly important for U.S. households trying to prepare for retirement. In 1983, 88% of workers with an employer-provided retirement plan had coverage that included a defined-benefit pension, which provides payments for life, according to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College using data from the Federal Reserve.

In the following decades, traditional pensions were replaced by 401(k)-style retirement plans. By 2019, 73% of workers with an employer plan had only defined-contribution coverage, in which the amount of money available in retirement depends on how much workers and employers put into the plan and how that money is invested.

An October survey from the American Association of Individual Investors found that respondents had about 62% of their portfolios in stocks, 14% in bonds and 25% in cash. That stock allocation matched the average in data going back to 1987, while investors were keeping a bit less in bonds and more in cash than the long-term norm.

Defined-contribution retirement plans have leaned into stocks. In the 401(k)s of workers still employed by their retirement plans’ sponsor, 68% of participants’ assets were invested in equity securities, including the stock portions of funds, at the end of 2019, while 29% of assets were in fixed-income securities, according to a report earlier this year from the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute.

No one knows when the typical stock-and-bond portfolio will start working again, but the economic outlook is darkening. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the U.S. to enter a recession within the next 12 months as slowing growth forces employers to pull back on hiring.

Unlike during the dot-com crash, the financial crisis and the early days of the pandemic, the Fed appears unlikely to swoop to the markets’ rescue by loosening monetary conditions. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has emphasised the need to keep raising interest rates to bring down inflation, even if it results in some economic pain.

Many financial advisers caution against abandoning the stock-and-bond approach after just one year of unusually bad returns. They point to charts tracking the S&P 500’s upward climb over the decades and note that throughout history, investors who bought at the end of the worst selloffs have been richly rewarded. Someone who entered the U.S. stock market during the depths of the financial crisis in 2009 would have received a return of roughly 361% over the following 11 years—enjoying stocks’ longest-ever stretch of gains.

For now, some advisers are reminding clients of the importance of staying diversified, such as by holding commodities like oil and precious metals along with stocks and bonds, or of holding enough cash to cover coming bills.

Eric Walters, a financial adviser based in Greenwood Village, Colo., said his clients have seemed notably sober as of late.

“Often we will start meetings and they will nervously ask, ‘Are we OK?’ ” he said. “I think they’re referring to the country and the economy and the stock market, and they’re also referring to themselves personally: Are we OK financially?”

Johnathan Bowden, a 64-year-old in Conroe, Texas, is no stranger to investing. He has read financial news for decades, tunes into webinars hosted by Morgan Stanley’s E*Trade platform and trades options on the side.

After retiring in June 2021, he began worrying the stock market’s supercharged run wouldn’t last. His fears were confirmed this year.

Rather than allowing himself to obsess over how badly the markets were doing, Mr. Bowden returned to his former job as a procurement manager. He works part-time—just enough to give himself a financial cushion, and to occupy himself during the week.

“I spent 40 years making this money,” Mr. Bowden said. “I don’t want to blow it.”

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For the Best Interior Design Finds, Take a Guided Shopping Tour to Paris, Istanbul and More

Passionate about both decor and travel? Design industry pros are leading global tours to share their secret shopping sources—and help you score one-of-a-kind pieces.

By ANTONIA VAN DER MEER
Mon, Feb 6, 2023 6 min

WHEN MELANIE BURNS of Oklahoma City first entered the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, she was stunned by its sheer size and the pathways winding through its tented structures like a tangle of yarn. Though well-traveled and an old hand at hunting one-of-a-kind objets, she’d never experienced such an onslaught of potential riches. “The bazaar is intimidating,” she said, “the size of about five football fields.”

She had expert allies, however: Clare Louise Frost and Elizabeth Hewitt of Tamam, a lifestyle brand and Manhattan store specialising in Turkish antiques and their own collections. The duo led Ms. Burns to a shop layered deep behind other shops. “It was no more than about 14 feet square, and stacked high with the most beautiful hand-woven vintage tapestries I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Burns recalled. “I would never have tackled the place without these women. They are walking encyclopedias, they speak the language and when you shop with them, you don’t overpay.”

Ms. Frost, who calls the bazaar “her second home,” lived in Istanbul for nine years, and her business partners, Ms. Hewitt and Hüseyin Kaplan, still live there. Together they host trips to Turkey, capped at 14 participants, all eager to buy décor to take back home. Overseas shopping sprees like this are an increasingly popular new category of travel. Interior-design pros immerse travellers in a country’s culture and guide them to fabulous finds, whether an ornate vintage camel bag from Turkey or a contemporary French sculpture.

Indagare, a travel company in Manhattan, is seeing a growing market for overseas shopping trips. The 30 Insider Journey trips it ran in 2022, including seven design-centred jaunts, drew 540 travellers, twice as many as in 2019. Sicily, Japan and Mallorca are locales Indagare is eyeing for future design trips. Penta, a magazine that, like The Wall Street Journal, is published by Dow Jones & Co., has a partnership with Indagare to organise trips.

“Covid taught us we need to go when we have the opportunity,” said Grant K. Gibson, a San Francisco interior designer who himself has led eight trips to India and two to Morocco and is adding excursions to Egypt, Mexico and Turkey.

Trips are as cultural as they are commercial. Before Mr. Gibson’s group of 10 globetrotters start looking for linens or bargaining for bowls, they tour Jaipur by electric rickshaw and visit a textile museum. “I want them to understand the history and know where design ideas come from,” he said. Cynthia Smith, a biotech exec from San Francisco who traveled with Mr. Gibson to Morocco, came home with pottery in a vibrant green glaze unique to Tamegroute, a village that edges the Sahara. “Everyone asks me about the vase, and I have a story to tell about Tamegroute pottery,” she said. “It gives character to my house.”

The packages don’t come cheap—from around $4,000 to $18,000 (not including flights) depending on location and length—but offer you insider access. Designer Chloe Mackintosh of Boxwood Avenue Interiors in Reno, Nev., is leading her first trip this year to parts of Italy and France she knows well. One focus will be the weekend antique markets in L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in southeast France, but she’ll also introduce guests to local artisans, including a fifth-generation ceramist. Her group will take a pottery-making class to understand the process behind the product.

Known as “the huntress” because of her many years buying and selling vintage furniture, Ariene C. Bethea says people began asking her to lead a trip so they could hunt alongside her. The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a shop and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., teamed with TrovaTrip to create a journey to the Paris flea markets this May. With Ms. Bethea’s input, the Portland, Ore., group-travel managers lined up accommodations, vendors, translators and tickets to museums. “I plan to help my guests shop, give them ideas and help them learn to tell stories in a space,” said Ms. Bethea, known for her playful use of colours, bold patterns and culturally inspired designs.

Lodging on these guided forays offers design cred, too. Ms. Mackintosh has reserved an entire 16-room château in the French countryside for just 12 people. Tamam’s Istanbul guests stay in a marble-floored hotel that was a late 19th-century Ottoman bank—with a vault that doubles as a wine cellar—and for excursions to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, they bed down in a traditional cavelike home carved out of soft rock.

On a trip to the South of France with Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland, visitors stay in Ms. Ireland’s farmhouse near Toulouse. Her trademark fabrics and colourful Bohemian and English-country style are on display in every bedroom lamp shade and living room chair. “Guests shop my house, and then I point them in the right direction to buy similar things,” she said. Ms. Ireland has been leading groups (a maximum of 10 people) for over a decade, taking them to neighbours’ villas, antique markets and out-of-the-way bakeries and bee yards.

Abby Landers first visited Ms. Ireland’s home as a high-school senior, traveling with her mother. Now five years out of college and living in Boston, she recently returned. “Kathryn embraced us, and she has been a mentor for me ever since.” Inspired by that first trip, Ms. Landers earned a master’s degree in interior architecture, and her current boss is someone she met on that trip. “You’re there for a week, and it’s a whirlwind of meeting artists and artisans, all friends of Kathryn’s.”

Kirstan Barnett, a tech investor from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., traveled to Tangier with Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare. Ms. Barnett was particularly moved by dinner at the 300-year-old, whitewashed, riad-style residence of Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani, two of the many designers she met at private events. The home was so richly layered and eclectic, she said, it inspired her to approach her own décor more bravely and reject the notion that a room must adhere to one style.

Some pros who organise such tours offer itinerary planning to folks who don’t want to travel with strangers. Mr. Gibson recently created a program for a group of four going to Jaipur. Though he won’t be joining them, he’s chosen the lodging and booked the restaurants and the experiences.

Travelers laser-focused on in-the-know shopping minus the touring can hire Chicago-based Skin Interior Design in cities such as London, Paris and Milan. The company arranges excursions so clients are shown exactly what they want—whether French midcentury chairs or Venetian-glass chandeliers. “We have an education in art history and antiques, and we help find pieces that keep value,” said Lauren Lozano Ziol, one of the founders. A recent two-day antique-furniture and art expedition in London cost $10,000.

How to get all the booty home? Mr. Gibson advises guests to travel with at least one empty suitcase. Bulky items can be packed and airfreighted home using DHL or FedEx. (Most carriers will pick up at the hotel.) Some vendors ship direct to the States from their stores at reasonable rates. For those who travel with Tamam to Turkey, easy shipping—including having your purchases collected from the vendors—is one of the perks. Ms. Burns, who bought ceramics, four suzani bedspreads and six rugs, said Tamam handled shipping for about $400. “Some of my things arrived before I even got home,” she said.

International Harvest / Souvenirs that guests collected on their design-focused journeys abroad
DESIGN JAUNTS ON THE HORIZON

Five 2023 trips abroad devised and helmed by interiors experts imparting their insider info

Ready to shop your way around the world? Here are just some of the available packages that focus on home design. Prices are per person and generally include accommodations, meals and beverages, guided touring, activities and local transportation.

Flea Market Foraging | May 4-10, 2023

The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a vintage-home-furnishings boutique and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., Ariene C. Bethea takes travellers shopping the Paris vintage markets and art galleries and on visits to lesser-known museums such as the Museum Nationale Gustave Moreau. Also on the agenda: a foray to Versailles and its gardens, a tour of Montmartre street art and a tasting at the Museum of Wine. From $3,649, Trips.TrovaTrip.com

Ciao, Italia | May 15-19, 2023 (wait list only)

Chloe Mackintosh, owner of Boxwood Avenue Interiors, a Reno, Nev., studio and shop, leads a 4-night trip in Florence, Italy. Travelers stay at the five-star Il Salviatino, a restored 15th-century villa that mixes Renaissance and contemporary décor. Along with shopping excursions, antiquing and a workshop at a local artisan’s studio, the trip includes wine tasting and cooking lessons. Florence, from $5,500, Learn.BoxwoodAvenue.com

Turkey Club | May 17-26, 2023

Designer Clare Louise Frost, Tulu Textiles owner Elizabeth Hewitt and carpet dealer Hüseyin Kaplan teamed up to create Tamam, located in Manhattan and Istanbul and specialising in antique and vintage Turkish textiles, rugs and ceramics. Travelers tour Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia, shopping the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar and visiting textiles and antique dealers. Plus: a hot-air-balloon ride and cooking class. Tamam in Turkey, from $3,600, Shop-Tamam.com

English Town and Country | June 11-17, 2023

In London, South African interior designer Serena Crawford guides travellers through Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden (Diana’s favourite) as well as shops such as heritage brand Fortnum & Mason. In the university town of Oxford, architectural highlights range from medieval to modern, and in the bucolic Cotswolds, guests visit private homes and gardens of renowned interior designers. London & the Cotswolds with Serena Crawford, from $15,350, Indagare.com

Joie de Vivre in France | Sept. 9-16, 2023

Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland takes you on private museum tours, flea market hunts and a trend-spotting tour of design fair Maison et Objet in Paris (ticket not included), followed by leisurely days in the French countryside at her farmhouse outside Toulouse. Paris & La Castellane, from $7,900, Paris hotel not included, KathrynIreland.com

India, Indeed | Dec. 11-18, 2023

San Francisco interior designer Grant K. Gibson shares his passion for India with a guided tour of Jaipur and Taj Mahal. Participants stay in a guesthouse once part of a maharajah’s gardens; enjoy traditional Indian feasts; learn the history of block printing; rendezvous with rescue elephants; and conquer the chaotic bazaar, comprising flower and spice markets and rug and textiles vendors. Travel with Grant from $9,500, GrantKGibson.com

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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