It’s been a year of contradictions.
The recession drum beats on, interest rates are rising, and the stock market has taken a tumble, and yet retail sales have risen 6.5% in the last 12 months, trailing a 7.1% increase in the cost of living.
There are other reasons people should consider cutting back on spending in 2023. The personal saving rate — meaning personal saving as a percentage of disposable income, or the share of income left after paying taxes and spending money — hit 2.4% in the third quarter from 3.4% in the prior quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said.
“There are signs that people are pulling back on certain expenditures. ”
That is the lowest level since the Great Recession and the eighth-lowest quarterly rate on record (since 1947). Adjusted for inflation, savings are down 88% from their 2020 peak and 61% lower than before the pandemic, according to government data. The personal saving rate hit 2.4% in November vs. 2.2% in October.
Are people buying stocks during a bearish market, and/or have they run out of their pandemic-era savings? Whatever the reasons, more judicious investing and spending decisions seem to be the most prudent approach — especially given the uncertain economic outlook for 2023.
There are signs that people are already pulling back on certain expenditures. Although retail sales are up on the year, they did decline 0.6% month-on-month in November to mark their biggest decline in almost a year, largely because of weak car sales.
About those new cars: New-vehicle total sales for 2022 are projected to reach 13,687,000 units, down 8.4% on the year, according to a joint forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. MarketWatch reporter Philip van Doorn explains all the reasons why you may wish to skip buying a new car in 2023, in addition to their rising prices.
So what else should you save your money on in 2023? MarketWatch writers give their verdict below.
During the pandemic, people loved to buy special purpose acquisitions companies, known as SPACs. In 2021, 613 SPACs listed on U.S. stock exchanges through initial public offerings, according to SPAC Insider. The year before, there were 248 SPAC IPOs. There had never been more than 100 of these before in a single year. There were SPACs associated with Donald Trump and Serena Williams. There were so many, that one was called Just Another Acquisition Corp.
SPACs exist as a means to take private companies public, and theoretically give these shell companies a faster and less regulatory burdensome means to access public capital. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors last April that so-called advantages of the SPAC process, such as reduced legal liability, may not prove to be so solid if tested in court.
The SPACs raised money even though they had no commercial operations or business, and tried to use the cash to buy something that did exist. But investors who bought SPACs that merged with private companies since 2015 have suffered losses of 37%, on average, a year after the merger, according to a recent study. The SPAC and New Issue ETF SPCX, +0.37% has slipped 12% this year. The frenzy for SPACs has predictably gone bust. But if you see one, just stay away from it.
— Nathan Vardi
There are two main reasons not to invest in cryptocurrency in 2023, and neither has to do with the precipitous drop in value for most of the major coins in the last year, including but not limited to bitcoin BTCUSD, -1.05%, ethereum ETHE, -2.90% and tether USDTUSD, -0.02%. Investors have long been conditioned to buy the dip and find value where others fear to tread, and then make money on the upswing.
Crypto is different because there’s no correlation to long-held market theories, and buying it amounts more to speculation than to investing. That might seem semantic, but if you look at financial planning holistically, then you treat investing as an exercise in risk tolerance — and crypto is all risk.
Which leads to the other main reason to avoid crypto in the next year: If you do buy it, there’s really no safe way to store it. There’s no federal insurance covering exchange failures and little cyber-theft protection for individuals. That leaves you on your own, which is not a good place to be with your money.
— Beth Pinsker
Meta Quest headsets
On the consumer front, if you’re really into virtual reality, there is nothing wrong with jumping on the new Meta Quest two and Meta Quest Pro headsets that were introduced in 2022 by Meta Platforms Inc. META, -0.76%.
The problem is that you might feel like you bought a BlackBerry BB, -3.09% phone in early 2007. Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.47% is expected to finally show off what engineers at the Silicon Valley giant have been cooking up in a years-long project to jump into augmented and virtual reality, and consumers are expected to at least get a glimpse at Apple’s attempt this year, if not a chance to buy whatever the company produces.
The headsets don’t come cheap: Meta said earlier this year it was raising the price of Meta Quest 2 headsets by $100 to $399.99 (128GB) and $499.99 (256GB). The iPhone’s introduction 15 years ago changed the way people look at smartphones, and Apple’s expected jump into this field in 2023 could leave anyone who spent their money on a Meta Quest headset wishing for a new reality.
— Jeremy Owens
Struggling companies with business models that appear to some to be dying and/or struggling do not generally perform well in the stock market. But during the pandemic these companies often had stocks that soared. What drove them was social media sentiment, driven on platforms like Reddit, by a swarm of retail investors.
There was video game retailer GameStop GME, -7.52%, movie theater chain AMC AMC, -8.64%, and smartphone dinosaur Blackberry. AMC recently announced the sale of another $110 million in stock, adding to a total that has already exceeded $2 billion since the theater chain got swept up into meme-stock madness. CEO Adam Aron wrote on Twitter that the move put the company “in a much stronger cash position.”
GameStop recently reported its seventh consecutive quarterly loss and reiterated its goal of returning to profitability in the near term, but analysts have signaled that many challenges lie ahead. During the company’s recent third-quarter conference call, Chief Executive Officer Matt Furlong said that GameStop would be open to exploring acquisitions of a strategic asset or complimentary business if they were available “in the right price range.”
Buying meme companies like this worked for some in a booming stock market fueled by ultra-low interest rates. But we are now in a bear market with interest rates that are elevated. Corporate fundamentals are back in vogue. So are quaint investment ideas like cashflow. More likely than not, the days of buying meme stocks are over.
— Nathan Vardi
In recent years, Tesla Inc. TSLA, -8.70% has stood alone as the best option for electric vehicles, while other manufacturers struggled to get production running. But in 2023, there should be many more types of electric cars available, at prices that are expected to trend downward as the year goes along. Teslas range in price from $46,990 for the Tesla Model 3 to $138,880 for the Tesla Model X Plaid.
With major manufacturers such as General Motors Co. GM, -0.71%, Ford Motor Co. FORD, -2.68%, Toyota Corp. and Volkswagen VOW, -0.77% VLKAF, -1.15% jumping into the fray, and young Tesla wannabes like Rivian Automotive Inc. RIVN, -7.37%, Lucid Group Inc. LCID, -7.38% and FIsker Inc. FSR, -6.54% expected to start producing cars, consumers will have many more options for EVs.
Meanwhile, Tesla has done little to update the Model 3 since it was introduced in 2017, and has increased prices at a level that Chief Executive Elon Musk has admitted is “embarrassing” for a company that claimed to have a goal of mass-market pricing for EVs.
The average price of a new EV is $64,249, while a new gas car is $48,281, according to Liz Najman, a climate scientist and communications and research manager at Recurrent Auto, an EV research and analytics firm focused on the used-vehicle market. After years of not having much choice beyond Tesla for EVs, 2023 appears to be the year that changes.
— Jeremy Owens