Are Luxury Investments a Good Idea in This Economy?

Luxury items can be a hedge against inflation, but evaluate your finances and possible returns before investing.

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Written by Elizabeth Ayoola
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Edited by Kathy Hinson
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Some people collect luxury goods such as investment pieces. Think of a Birkin bag, art by the legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat or a Rolex. Anything considered timeless or high-quality and that appreciates in value can be called an investment piece.

The luxury market tends to be more resilient than other sectors during economic instability because of high demand, among other factors. That said, is this inflationary period a good time to invest in luxury goods?

Buying luxury goods amid inflation

The U.S. Federal Reserve has raised interest rates 11 times since March 2022 in an attempt to cool inflation. Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in 22 years, and consequently, we’ve seen the cost of borrowing increase and spending on nonessential goods decrease.

While Americans have cut back on spending, the demand for luxury goods is still strong. Research by J.P. Morgan shows a 7% year-over-year increase in the luxury goods market in the fourth quarter of 2022, despite significant price hikes.

Luxury brands raised the prices of their products by almost 17% in 2020 and early 2021 in response to lower sales during COVID-19, according to a 2022 study by KPMG International. This change is significant considering typical price increases are 5% to 10%. These price increases didn’t only benefit luxury brands; people who invested in these goods in prior years may have also seen gains.

Gloria H. Gill, a retiree who we spoke to on Facebook Messenger, said the value of her large classic Chanel bag has more than doubled in about seven years. Gill purchased the bag for $4,800 in Paris in 2016. It now has a market value of around $10,000.

“I have sold bags before, but I doubt I’ll sell this one,” Gill said. “It’s listed in my will, and my sons are aware of its high value.”

Luxury goods can sometimes hedge against inflation when they appreciate in value, says William Huston, founder of Bay Street Capital Holdings, which has offices in Los Angeles, New York and Fremont, California.

“These luxury goods, they do protect against inflation, but they don't outperform the general stock market,” he says.

As with any investment, there are risks. As Huston points out, your money could potentially earn a higher rate of return elsewhere. Also, your item could get lost or destroyed, or it may be difficult to resell.

Assess your financial foundation first

Before investing in anything, assess your financial situation. For instance, is your emergency fund well stocked? Keep in mind that possessions are considered “illiquid assets” — not quickly convertible to cash if you need it in a pinch.

Also, saving for retirement comes before investing in luxury goods, says Dora Meyer, a certified financial planner at WellAcre Global Wealth Advisors in Santa Monica, California.

"Make sure you are taking advantage of any tax-advantaged accounts, so your 401(k), your Roth IRAs, before you look at investing in something like this. [And] your HSA," she says.

Meyer also advises, “Be careful [with] buying on credit, especially in this environment when interest rates are a little bit higher.” And she recommends buying from a reputable source to avoid knockoffs.

Investing in timeless pieces

Valerie Schwank owns the Fashionista Consignment Boutique in Coconut Grove, Florida, where she buys and sells luxury goods. Schwank has seen a significant boom in her business since the pandemic began and is an advocate for investing in luxury pieces. She recommends buying timeless and high-quality pieces, as they tend to hold their value.

“I always recommend that you buy a staple,” she says. And by staple, Schwank means “the Chanel classic double flap, no-nonsense handbag, which has been around forever.”

Think about factors like the color and materials of items, too. That often differentiates timeless luxury goods from ones that won’t hold as much value over time. Keeping your items in good shape, especially if you plan to resell, is also important, Schwank says.

Calculating your potential returns

Research how an item has historically performed before purchasing to ensure it’s a worthwhile investment. You can go to luxury resale sites such as Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal and Rebag and check how pieces have appreciated over time.

Huston advises having a financial plan before making a luxury investment. “With the financial plan, you'd be able to see, ‘I'm 30 years old, I'm gonna save $300 a month,’” he says, as an example. That plan can give you context to decide, “'That's a meaningful amount of money to me and I can afford that $300, and it's better for me to save $300 in my 401(k) than to buy a watch,'” he says.

You can also improve your investment returns by negotiating when it comes to items like art, he adds.

“A lot of this luxury stuff is negotiable because again, it's illiquid” and not easily converted to cash, he says. “So if you find the right person selling the right thing at the right time, you can get it for a really good value because they just want to get some of their money back.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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