We’re not yet at the end of 2022 and it’s clear it has been a tough year for investors.

A toxic cocktail of inflation, rate hikes, quantitative tightening and Government instability leading to tax hikes has combined to create one of the toughest climates in decades for anyone looking to build their wealth.

But while it has been a difficult climate for many to deal with, there are some key measures anyone can take to protect and improve their wealth in such times.

The key to this is effective and active financial management and getting the right advice at the right time. Here are some ideas.

Hold some cash

This is a very basic idea, but it needs to be reaffirmed. Have a cash buffer. If you’re younger, have a family with dependents to look after, bills and a mortgage to pay it is essential to have a rainy-day fund to protect you in the event of a job loss or other problem that could leave you without an income or needing to pay a big bill.

If you’re in work, a rule of thumb is to look at your overall monthly outgoings and consider saving in cash up to a level of three to six months cover. You might want more or less, but consider how quickly you think you’d be able to get a new job and have that regular income coming back in.

If you’re in work, it’s also essential to have income protection plans in place and life insurance were the worst to happen. The younger and healthier you are, the cheaper the policy will be for you.

If you’re retired or not reliant on a wage for your living costs, then a cash buffer is really important in volatile markets. This is because if you’re using your wealth to pay for your cost of living, having to sell out of an asset when valuations are down will bake in losses permanently. Having cash to draw on is important for this in the short term.

Of course, holding cash is always at risk of devaluation thanks to inflation. This is an acceptable risk though with short-term framing for the use of this cash. To mitigate it, spread the money into savings accounts that pay decent rates. Put some in an instant access account and others in longer-time releases to benefit from better rates.

Savings rates in cash accounts are still well behind inflation but are better than they were even just a few months ago.

Beyond that if you’ve already got that cash buffer in place, top it up to an equivalent level to match your rising costs each year – or by the level of inflation if that’s easier to figure out.

Pay off debts

Debt in the current environment can be particularly toxic, but it falls into a couple of different camps.

In the past decade the economy has been largely fuelled by cheap debt. We’re used to seeing lurid stories of companies like Deliveroo taking payment by credit instalments for a pizza.

In short, it has been really easy to take on new debt. This era is coming to an end with rising interest rates. Rising rates – by design – make debt more expensive to manage. But there’s a couple of different kinds of debt to worry about here.

The most painful and urgent to fix is credit card and other unsecured debts which see rates move freely. If you have these kinds of debts paying them off should be prioritised over saving because the cost is simply going to get harder to manage.

Rising rates don’t just affect credit card APRs – they also reduce the availability and quality of deals such as balance transfer cards. In short, it’s time to kick the debt habit.

Fixed debt such as mortgages and loans function slightly differently though. Loans will often have a fixed rate which makes it more manageable to pay while mortgages come with fixed terms too and should be manageable as long as you’ve got time left on your deal.

Regular contributions

Once your cash position and debt levels are in a good place – think about the state of the market. While performance is never guaranteed, as global economic growth has progressed in the last century, so have investments in the markets that represent it.

If your investment values are down, this is ok. Generally, as markets recover so do investments.

But making continued regular contributions or even increasing your contributions can be a good strategy in this environment as it takes advantage of cheaper valuations and smooths out volatility in your portfolio through pound-cost averaging.

With that logic in mind, when asset prices are depressed, it can present a considerable buying opportunity with a well-thought-out strategy in mind.

Tax sheltering

We’re in very specific economic circumstances at the moment. With high Government debt levels and little in the way of leeway for it to borrow on international markets to fund its agenda, tax rises are coming.

That makes careful tax planning extremely important. Using up allowances for ISAs, pensions and other useful schemes are a great way to soften the blow any taxes rises might bring. But the rules are potentially changing quickly as a result of Government instability, making considered planning tricky.

Tax planning can be a complex process, so unless you’re well-versed in tax laws and financial planning, it’s probably best to get advice to ensure your wealth is working as hard as it can be within the rules.

If you would like to discuss this or any of the other themes expressed in this article, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 9th November 2022.