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What should you invest in during a recession?

Find out which investments are likely to continue to perform while there's a recession.

When the stock market is as volatile as it is at the moment, it’s no surprise that everyone’s gone mad for stock trading. But should you invest during a recession, and if so, what should you invest in?

The stock market is sensitive to fluctuations in people’s spending, as you’re likely to have noticed with the recent coronavirus outbreak. Some stocks can take a dive, but there are other investments considered to be “safe havens” that people usually turn to during a recession.

Did you know?

A “safe haven” investment is typically stable in times of market volatility and is also useful for investors looking to diversify their portfolio, decreasing exposure to riskier assets or investments. However, this doesn’t make the investment risk-free and as with all investing, you could still lose your capital.

Healthcare, food and utilities

These are known as “defensive stocks”, which basically means that consumers will still buy them.

When investing during a recession, you mainly want to think about what stocks and shares are still likely to do well. Even when we’re all counting our pennies, we’re still spending money (albeit, less money) on healthcare, food and utilities. These are the sectors that are more likely to do well while other sectors are struggling. You can invest in stocks and shares through a trading platform. If you go with a platform that allows you to build your own portfolio, you can choose which companies you want to invest in.

Compare stock trading platforms

Name Product Available Asset Types Stock Fee Option Fee Account Fee ETF Transaction Cost Feature Table description
OFFER
Wealthsimple Trade
Stocks, ETFs
$0
N/A
$0
Free
Get a $50 bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade account and deposit and trade at least $100.
Pay no commissions when you trade Canadian stocks and ETFs with Wealthsimple Trade.
Scotia iTRADE
Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities
$4.99-$9.99
$9.99 + $1.25 contract ($4.99 + $1.25 contract if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
$0
$9.99 ($4.99 if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
Pay no annual account fees.
Buy, sell and trade ETFs, Equities, Options and more with competitive commissions.
CIBC Investor's Edge
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs
$4.95 - $6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 (+$1.25 per contract)
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $100/year
$6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 is applicable for online stock, ETF and option trades only. Pay $4.95 when you qualify as an Active Trader (trade 150+ times per quarter).
An intuitive and easy-to-use platform with access to a variety of tools that help you make smart decisions and trade with confidence.
Interactive Brokers
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Currencies, Futures
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
$1.50 min. per order
$0
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
Extensive trading capabilities and global investment tracking.
Access market data 24 hours a day, six days a week and invest in global stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds and funds from one single account.
Questrade
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities, Precious Metals
$4.95-$9.95
$9.95 + $1 per contract
$0
Free
Get $50 in free trades when you fund your account with a minimum of $1,000.
Opt for self-directed investing and save on fees or get a pre-built portfolio and take some of the guesswork out.
Qtrade Direct Investing
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$6.95 - $8.75
$6.95 - $8.75 + $1.25 per contract
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
$0 - $8.75
Trade 100 select ETFs free of charge.
Qtrade Direct Investing offers low trading commissions and an easy-to-use platform with access to powerful tools and a wide selection of investment options. Trade 100 ETFs free of charge and thousands more for $8.75 or lower.
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Property

If you’re already a homeowner, a recession doesn’t do you many favours. However, it can offer some investment opportunities if you purchase while home values are down.

You don’t have to purchase a home to invest in property. You can invest in property investment funds, invest through peer to peer lending, invest with property ISAs or with land banking schemes. We have a handy guide to investing in property without actually buying property.

Precious metals

This is another product you can invest in without actually purchasing any physical goods. Precious metals such as gold and silver tend to continue to perform while there’s a recession. You’re likely to see the prices rise during this time as the demand for them rises, so you need to snap up a good price early on.

Some currencies

Not all currencies are considered safe havens. It generally depends on the government and the stability of their financial system. For example, the Swiss franc is generally thought to be a safe haven because of the stability of the Swiss government. The euro, US dollar and Japanese yen are also thought to be safe havens.

Foreign exchange (usually known as forex) is the market where currencies are traded, with profits and losses made on the changing exchange rate. Think about when you buy holiday cash, then imagine you sell it back a day later when there’s a different rate. That’s basically forex.

Tips for investing in a recession

  • Think about the long term. If you think you’re going to need your money soon, it’s not really wise to invest it in stocks that are going to be unstable to start with.
  • Eliminate debt and have money saved up for emergencies. You can make additional savings for investing this way, to ensure that you’re not going to need to withdraw if your boiler fails or car breaks down.
  • Avoid the high-risk stocks. Stay a bit cautious when investing during a recession as stocks tend to be a bit more tumultuous.

The lowdown

There’s not really such a thing as a “recession-proof investment”. Investments are risky. The closest you’ll get to “recession-proof” is safe havens. Save havens tend to be more stable while markets are volatile. Examples of safe havens include:

  • Healthcare, food and utilities
  • Property
  • Precious metals
  • Some currencies

Guide to investing for the future

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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