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You’ve heard me say it: Investing is a key part of your wealth-building machine. I want you to develop a winning game plan to reach your financial goals, and that includes staying informed about the economy and other yearly investing trends.
Now, before we take a look at what could be in store for 2019, hear me say this: No one can predict exactly what the economy will do this year. There’s no magic crystal ball or formula out there that can tell us what’s going to happen with absolute certainty. That’s the honest truth, even if many investing “experts” and talking heads aren’t willing to say it.
However, there are some economic indicators that can give us hints about what might happen in the stock market. But you’ve got to remember, these are just pieces of information—statistics and trends.
So let’s break it down!
You’ll Be Able to Save More for Retirement in 2019
First, I know all the cable news networks and major newspapers are filled with gloom and doom nowadays, but there is a bit of good news that might’ve slipped through the cracks of the news cycle: You’ll be able to save more for retirement in 2019!
Understand & Own Your Investing Future
How? Here’s what you need to know for this year:
The IRS is raising the annual contribution limits for employer-sponsored retirement plans to $19,000 (up from $18,500). This includes folks who contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.
The annual limit for IRAs is also getting bumped to $6,000 (up from $5,500). And if you’re age 50 or older, the catch-up contribution limit will remain at $1,000, so you can put up to $7,000 into a traditional or Roth IRA if you’ve fallen behind on your retirement savings.(1)
If you can contribute up to the limit, that’s awesome!
No matter what’s happening in the economy, I recommend investing 15% of your income for retirement. If you’re ready to invest, that’s a good overall goal to shoot for in 2019.
What Are Economic Indicators?
Now, let’s take a look at some of this year’s economic indicators. But wait—what are economic indicators? They’re statistics that give us insight into future trends in the economy.
Think of these economic indicators as thermometers. To a certain extent, they help us keep an eye on the temperature of the overall economy. Sometimes they can show us if it looks like certain parts of the economy are heating up or on the verge of cooling down.
Think of economic indicators as thermometers. To a certain extent, they help us keep an eye on the temperature of the overall economy.
Here are five of the major economic indicators we’re going to watch in 2019:
- Unemployment Rate
- Interest Rates
- Consumer Confidence
- Stock Market
- Housing Market
Let’s take a look at these indicators and find out what they could mean for you and your money this year.
1. Unemployment Rate
You’re probably familiar with this one. The unemployment rate simply tells us how many people got (or lost) a job. It’s one of the clearest ways to see which way the economy is moving. Rising unemployment numbers are scary. They mean fewer jobs and an economy in serious trouble. Lower unemployment rates mean more people are finding work and an economy that’s getting stronger.
In 2018, the unemployment rate dropped again as part of a trend that began nine years ago when the country began to recover from the Great Recession.(2) That’s good news!
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to 3.7% in October 2018—the lowest level since 1969.(3) The Federal Open Market Committee believes that rate will drop even further this year, down to 3.5% by the end of 2019.(4)
So what does all that mean for your investments? Well, if companies are hiring, that usually means they’re growing. As their fortunes improve, yours can too—especially if you’re investing in those companies through mutual funds in your 401(k) and IRA.
2. Interest Rates
Now, sometimes strong economic numbers are too much of a good thing and people start to worry about inflation. Inflation increases the prices of the things we buy every day (like gasoline or milk) and reduces the purchasing power of the dollars we use to buy them.
To keep the economy from overheating, the Federal Reserve could try to cool things down by raising interest rates. And that’s just what economists expect the Fed to do several times this year to prevent people from borrowing too much money.(5)
That means anyone looking to get a car loan (don’t do that) or a home equity loan (don’t do that either) will pay more in interest. And interest rates for home mortgages will also be higher for home buyers in 2019–around 5% for a 30-year mortgage and 4.4% for a 15-year mortgage, which is the only mortgage I recommend.(6)
But if you’re a saver, the higher interest rates are great news since you’ll likely start earning a little more on your money market accounts.
At the end of the day, though, nobody really knows for sure how things will shake out because so many components go into forming the interest rate. To stay informed, you’ll want to keep an eye on what the Fed is doing throughout the year.
3. Consumer Confidence
You can usually tell when someone feels confident. They walk with their head held high, they puff out their chest, and they have a swagger in their step. They also tend to spend more and save less! Well, that last part is what the Consumer Confidence Index says, at least.
The Consumer Confidence Index measures how everyday Americans feel about the economy. When people are confident, they typically spend more money. When their confidence is low, they do the opposite. And right now, folks are feeling pretty good about the economy!
The Consumer Confidence Index measures how everyday Americans feel about the economy. When people are confident, they typically spend more money.
In fact, the Conference Board’s Survey of Consumer Confidence hit an 18-year high last October with more folks planning to buy a home or a car in the next few months.(7) While many experts predict the growth of the economy to slow down somewhat this year, consumer confidence should remain pretty high as wages continue to rise and unemployment remains low.(8)
Now, why does this matter to you? Because when you feel good about the economy, you might be tempted to increase your lifestyle spending instead of sticking to your retirement savings plan. But you need to stay focused and keep saving, people—even when your salary gets a bump!
4. Stock Market
The stock market works the same way your favorite supermarket does. The only difference is you’re buying stocks instead of strawberries!
The stock market is made up of different exchanges where people buy and sell stocks—which are basically small pieces of ownership in a company. If the stock market is like the supermarket where you buy and sell stuff, then the exchanges are the different aisles and sections inside the store—like the deli or bakery.
The S&P (Standard & Poor’s) 500 Index measures the performance of the 500 largest, most stable companies in the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P 500 is often considered the most accurate measure of the stock market as a whole. When the index increases, the economy is usually doing well. Make sense?
After a bumpy finish for the stock market in 2018, early estimates for the S&P 500 in 2019 are all over the map. Some Wall Street strategists predict modest gains as economic growth starts to slow down while others are more optimistic about the possibility the S&P 500 will continue to grow rapidly.(9)
Here’s an important word of caution: When your investments are doing well, you may be tempted to sell them for some quick cash. Or, if the stock market tanks, you might panic and want to cash out everything to keep from “losing money.” But stock market investing, even through mutual funds, is like riding a roller coaster. Once the ride gets going, you don’t want to jump off.
Don’t touch your investments until retirement! If you want to reallocate them to different types of investments, talk to your financial advisor. Otherwise, leave them alone, people!
5. Housing Market
Okay, even though the economy has been roaring, the housing market seems to be in the middle of a yawn. With home prices climbing and interest rates rising in 2018, existing home sales fell to their lowest level in three years last year(10) and dropped around 3% from 2017.(11) That just means the “seller’s market” we’ve been experiencing over the past several years is about to settle down a little.
According to the National Association of Realtors, sales numbers are expected to stabilize in 2019 with a slight increase from last year.(12) Home prices in the U.S. will continue to rise, but at a slower rate than in years past—around 2%.(13)
So, whether you’re buying or selling a home in 2019, you’ll probably need to adjust your expectations. Home sellers might see a bit more competition from other folks trying to sell their homes and shrinking demand from wary buyers. Meanwhile, purchasing a home is going to be more expensive as mortgage rates and home prices continue to rise.
If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in 2019, get in touch with one of our trusted real estate professionals. They’ll walk you through the market and tell you what to expect in your area.
Remember the Big Picture
No matter what happens in 2019, don’t forget about the big picture! It’s good to be informed, but if you try to keep your eyes glued to each twist and turn in the market, you’ll live in panic mode. You’ll never be able to relax and leave your investments alone.
Remember, investing works best if you sit back and let time and compound interest do their thing. Trying to time the market is a fool’s game. You have to keep a big-picture perspective!
Check out my new book Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—And How You Can Too and read more about building wealth and retiring a millionaire.
Need More Investment Advice? Find a Pro!
I hope this information gives you more confidence about investing and the economy. But I’m guessing you probably have more questions about your particular situation. While I can’t speak into the specifics of your financial plan (I wish I could!), the good news is you can sit down with a financial advisor in your area who can.
The new year is here. It’s time to get to work.
Let’s do this!
About Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan is a #1 national best-selling author, dynamic speaker and financial expert. For more than a decade, Hogan has served at Ramsey Solutions, spreading a message of hope to audiences across the country as a financial coach and Ramsey Personality. Hogan challenges and equips people to take control of their money and reach their financial goals, using The Chris Hogan Show, his national TV appearances, and live events across the nation. His second book, Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—And How You Can Too, is based on the largest study of net-worth millionaires ever conducted. You can follow Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360.