America’s big day has come and gone, and the American people have spoken. The only problem is we still don’t know who’ll be sitting in the White House come Jan. 20, 2021 -- at least as of 3 a.m. EST on Nov. 4.
This has been a hard-fought election cycle from both parties, and the uncertainty of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has only magnified near-term uncertainty for the U.S. economy and fiscal policy, in general. But that’s the great thing about elections: They eventually come to an end. This means investors can get back to what they do best -- making money.
Even though we still don’t have perfect clarity on what Capitol Hill will look like in the years to come, investors are strongly encouraged to make the following three money moves right now.
Reassess your holdings
You certainly didn’t need to wait for an election or major event to be told this, but it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your portfolio holdings.
For much of the past six months, we’ve witnessed Wall Street analysts and investing pundits offer their suggestions on which stocks would perform best if Donald Trump or Joe Biden were elected president. But this short-term pattern of thinking does little good, especially considering that the broader market tends to increase in value over the long run, no matter which political party is in charge.
With the election in the rearview mirror, it’s time for investors to ask themselves one key question about every stock they own: Does the reason I bought into this company still hold true today?
Chances are that the U.S. election had absolutely no effect on the initial investment theses in the company’s you own. If that proves the case, you have no incentive to sell your holdings. If, by some chance, your investment thesis has been broken, either by the election or some other factor, only then would it be advisable to consider selling your stake in a company.
Long story short, reassessing your holdings probably means sitting on your hands and allowing your investment theses to play out.
Add to your winners
The second thing to do with your money, now that the election is over, is add to your winners. Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner is a big fan of letting your winners run. That’s because winning companies often have sustainable competitive and innovative advantages that allow them to thrive in virtually any economic or political environment.
As an example, think about e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). For more than a decade, Amazon has been labeled a pricey, bloated, expensive stock. And all it’s done since the Great Recession ended is gain more than 4,900% for its shareholders.
Amazon will never fit the bill as a true fundamental value, but it offers clear competitive advantages that have merited this premium. For instance, it controls 38.7% of all online sales in the U.S., according to eMarketer, or 44%, if you ask the analysts at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. Since roughly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product is derived from consumption, Amazon is in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 economy in the world.
Here’s something else to consider: Amazon was valued at between 23 and 37 times its year-end operating cash flow between 2010 and 2019. But due to the rapid growth of its high-margin cloud-infrastructure segment, Amazon Web Services, its operating cash flow is expected to nearly triple by 2023. This works out to an operating cash flow multiple of 15 by 2023, based on its current share price. In other words, it’s historically cheaper than it’s ever been, despite gaining over 4,900% since March 2009.
Winners keep winning, which means you should keep adding.
Build cash for inevitable "hiccups"
The third and final money move to make is to build up your cash reserves for expected stock market hiccups.
In the short term, there are a number of uncertainties that could continue to weigh on the minds of Wall Street and investors. We don’t yet know how effective coronavirus vaccines will be at slowing or suppressing the disease, and rising COVID-19 cases in the U.S. could prompt lockdowns in select states or counties. There’s also been a shroud of uncertainty regarding Stimulus Deal 2.0 for more than two months.
But if you look beyond the temporary white noise, you’d see that stock market corrections are far more common than you probably realize. The benchmark S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has undergone 38 corrections of at least 10% over the past 70 years. That works out to a correction, on average, every 1.84 years. Since 2009, we’ve witnessed 15 declines in the S&P 500 of at least 5.8%, or more than one per year.
The point is, emotional investing and crashes/corrections happen no matter which political party is in charge. Since every correction in history has eventually (key word!) been erased by a bull market rally, any sizable decline in the stock market is an opportunity for long-term investors to put their money to work.
Use this time as an opportunity to get that dry powder ready to deploy when the stock market hits its next period of irrationality.