Dark clouds over the sea

How I built Wealth in a Bear Market

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Net Worth Update 2022

“Winter is Coming.” No, Winter is here as we continue to be herded into a government-induced recession, all in the name of fighting inflation. It’s also about shifting some power back to employers and away from employees, who are refusing to comply with returning to the office, fortifying their unions and building unconventional incomes via the gig economy and side-hustle stacking.

So, what should we expect from 2023? We should expect more of the same economic warfare that 2022 brought. But that doesn’t mean you can’t thrive and build wealth during economic turmoil. 

The stock market had its worse year last year since 2008 when the housing market collapsed. The S&P 500 fell 19.4%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 8.8% and the NASDAQ fell 33.1%. Inflation made our checks a lot smaller and crypto dreams everywhere faded to black. The stock market became a depressing ride that had most looking for the exits. And yet those that were determined to do so still managed to grow their net worth (myself included). What made it possible for some to grow their net worth during the worst bear market we’ve had in 14 years? 

My Wealth-Building Secrets

Income

I have three wealth-building secrets, the first is income. Without a steady and rising income, you’ll be stuck in survival mode. Once you have a steady income you will have to assess your situation and determine if your current income is enough to take you where you want to go or if more income is required. A new job, a second job or skilling up are your options. I chose all three. I changed jobs, added a job and started a business. It may sound like a lot, especially in a country where “quiet quitting” is a thing and soft living is now a goal and trending. You will have to mentally prepare yourself to work harder than you’re used to working. 

Intentionality

Putting in the extra work will quickly create a more lucrative situation for you. Flushed with cash or at least more than you’re used to having will quickly become the norm so you will have to be intentional with your new income stream. The extra income should be used to build wealth and pay down debt. You will need to make doing so a priority. You must be intentional with every new dime you create for yourself. With no debt (outside of my mortgage), I made growing my net worth my priority in 2022. Automating 90% of my saving and investing was a no-nonsense way of making my financial intentions clear to myself and the universe. 

Diversification 

While the internet would sell you (literally, sell you a course) on the idea that there is a special bear-market portfolio and a special recession-proof portfolio, I don’t ascribe to any of it. Your portfolio should be a diversified set of assets that include cash, individual stocks, Mutual Funds, ETFs, bonds, MLPs, CEFs and real estate. And how you hold each of those assets should also be diversified. I own real estate (my home). But I also own REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), which allow me to own a very diversified portfolio of real estate from malls to storage facilities.  

I have cash in a high-yield savings account. But I also have CDs (Certificates of Deposit). I have bonds but they’re not all corporate bonds. I have government bonds, municipal bonds and international bonds. As for stocks, I have stocks in every sector. I don’t just own whatever is hot (sorry, NASDAQ). You protect your assets with diversification, understanding that all asset classes are cyclical. 

Diversification should also include how you earn your income. A job, a business and a side hustle are all great, but they all require you to trade your time for money. You should immediately begin to work on earning passive income, income that is earned even while you sleep.

“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die,” said Warren Buffet.

My favorite ways to earn passive income are dividend stocks, interest and royalties. I’m currently working on the latter. Here are a few ideas on how you might earn passive income.  

There you have it. My not-so-secret secrets for beating the odds in 2022, which I will continue throughout this year to build wealth during one of the worst markets in a decade. Work a lot, be intentional with your money and diversify both your investments and your income. We can’t control the market but we must control all the other variables that go into building wealth, like how much we earn, how much we save, how much we invest and the knowledge base that we operate from when we invest.

Okay, time for the year-end net worth and dividend update. Did I cross the $300K net worth mark (which has never included any home equity, cars, jewelry or the like)? And did I earn the $3,000 in dividends that I set out to earn?

Drum roll, please!

As you know, the stock market was a violent ride in 2022. At one point I questioned crossing over the $250K mark. In September, the market surged and all the extra investing I did while the market was down paid off. My net worth skipped over the $260s and $280s and jumped into the $290s. It even crossed $300K in early December before another market drop hit. I’ll just have to wait a little longer for the countdown to the next $100K begins. All told, the old net worth increased by $57,000 this year (more than I ever expected). I attribute this to my high savings rate and dividends. 

Speaking of dividends, my goal in 2022 was to earn $3,000 in dividend income for the year. For a long time increasing my income was the top priority but that is no longer the case. Increasing my dividend income is now my top priority. Seeing those dividends roll in no matter what the market was doing was extremely motivating and let me know I was on the right track. 

Okay, time for another drum roll…

There you have it: $3,562.39 in dividends! I more than doubled the dividends I received last year and while doubling will soon be impossible, I’m going to try one more time in 2023 to double my dividend earnings. Every month was a new personal high for dividends but crossing $400 was the biggest surprise and I managed to do it twice (September and December). December was my best month at $484.73. January was the lowest month at $140.64, which had me thinking there was no way I would reach my goal of $3,000 so, $3,500 never crossed my mind. 

The lesson here is to reach for the moon and if you come up short, you’ll walk away with a star.

Happy New Year, Copper to Cotton readers!

Remember, it is a fight to build wealth no matter where you are in the process. Everything around us conspires to take money out of our hands. But you must fight the good fight. Continue to save, invest, and grow your net worth even when it seems impossible. Save your pennies (copper) until they become dollars (cotton).

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