Where to Invest $1 Million Right Now

Five experts reveal promising investment options for substantial sums.
Illustration: Isabel Seliger
By Suzanne Woolley, Adam Majendie and Edward Robinson

In our latest installment for those who have a spare million, after skipping Uber’s initial public offering or perhaps taking a second helping from the crypto market, recommendations range from betting on New York real estate to collateralized loan obligations. Yes, you read that right.

With global markets buffeted in the past three months by geopolitics and global uncertainty, it’s not surprising that our panel has a marked focus on risk and the desire to diversify from more traditional investment markets. As usual, for those with more exotic tastes, we offer such out-of-the box alternatives as Eric Clapton’s guitars and the mysterious wealth hidden in crystals.

Thorne Perkin

President of Papamarkou Wellner Asset Management

We’ve invested for many years with a real estate group called Tavros, and they’ve been good at getting ahead of the curve in terms of New York neighborhoods. They were early investors in Fifth Avenue south, before the Flatiron district got hot, and bought a corner of 14th Street and 9th Avenue years ago in the Meatpacking District that has become perhaps the hippest area in New York City.

They’re investing in Long Island City and were there well before Amazon announced, and then abandoned, its plans to create a corporate campus there. New York, and certainly, Long Island City, would be better off if Amazon had come and stayed, but Amazon could have chosen to go anywhere in the world and it chose Long Island City, which is a massive brand stamp of approval.

We like the neighborhood for a lot of reasons. What everyone complains about in New York is transportation, and the area has spectacular transportation. It’s so close to Manhattan but relatively inexpensive to live there. There are multiple subway lines that go to Long Island City, and you can take a train to Brooklyn and Manhattan without needing to transfer. It has great schools, tons of cultural institutions and beautiful waterfront parks that are just buzzing.

Maybe we’re in the third inning of how the neighborhood develops. In the condo market there’s still limited supply. It’s been a very hot submarket over the past couple of years and for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, it will only pick up speed. If you use a million to buy a condo, well, you’ll do well over the long term, and it’s an amazing place to live.

Another way to play: I’ve played guitar and sung almost all of my life, including some live performing through the years. For me, rock guitarists don’t get more versatile, memorable or iconic than Eric Clapton. To own one of his guitars would be a dream, and it would only appreciate in value. In 1999 Clapton auctioned off 100 of his guitars, raising about $5 million for his rehabilitation charity, the Crossroads Centre. The top lot was a 1956 Fender Stratocaster he named “Brownie,” which he used extensively on stage in the ‘70s. It sold for $497,500. In 2004, another of Clapton’s guitars, “Blackie,” sold at a Christie’s auction for $959,500, also to benefit his Crossroads charity.

Alan Higgins

Chief Investment Officer at Coutts & Co.

Investors are still scarred from the crash 10 years ago and by the multiple corrections in the stock market since. As a result, we believe global equities are increasingly under-owned and underappreciated. Many investors are sitting on the sidelines, while companies and sovereign wealth funds continue to buy equities. This is why this year is known as the flowless rally—markets are up but there have been substantial outflows this year from active equities and exchange-traded funds. We like equities as a source of income, and in fact global dividends have increased more than 30% over the last five years.

A less-mainstream idea is that investors have overcompensated for two things: default risk and liquidity risk. One way to play on that sentiment is to invest in collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs. Remember them from the hangover of 2008-09? These are pools of corporate loans that banks securitize and sell to investors. The securitized market became quite controversial when the U.S. government had to bail out the banks and AIG after certain structured financial products worsened the mortgage crash. Well, too many people have seen “The Big Short,” and they believe the whole of the asset-backed market was a disaster. CLOs were marked down in 2008-09, but the defaults were not en masse. Overall the CLO market is a much more robust asset class than is widely perceived. Internal rates of return are now running at 10% to 14% annually, depending on the vintage.

To get exposure, you can buy anything from AAA-rated bonds to CLO equity, which is the riskiest tranche. Mr. Market moves the values of these instruments around, but what we like is that at the end of the day the return is determined by defaults. Defaults do happen, and Federal Reserve officials and the Bank of England have expressed concern about weakening standards in the loan market that enables CLOs, especially for borrowers with weak credit ratings. Yet for us, this is the purest compensation for taking default risk. The overall average default rate for CLOs is 0.09% and the average change in credit quality has been positive since 2011. So we see the returns going against the trend of the idea that CLOs are a disaster waiting to happen. Instead investors should look at the data.

Another way to play: Attending the best matches at Wimbledon is one of the most coveted tickets in all of sport. So imagine the prospect of owning a pair of Centre Court seats for every day of the tennis tournament for five years, plus the ability to resell those tickets for big profits. You can do this by purchasing Wimbledon debentures, which are essentially the rights to tickets for club-level seats, right outside the Royal Box. The next series, covering 2021 to 2025, are for sale at 80,000 pounds ($101,000) each, and there are only about 2,500 Centre Court debentures available. The last batch, with a face value of 50,000 pounds, is now worth about 120,000 pounds on the secondary market. Our clients typically consider these as a passion investment whereby they may attend some matches, sell valuable days such as the men’s semi-finals, and donate some tickets to charity. I’ve put my money where my mouth is and applied for the latest round from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

Michael Tiedemann

Chief Executive Officer at Tiedemann Advisors

From a pure investment and tax-transfer point of view, we think U.S. opportunity zones are extraordinarily interesting. It’s a terrific, well-intended investment plan, offered, really, by the Internal Revenue Service to help spur economic development in historically under-invested areas.

If you look at the forward return of the S&P 500, most would forecast 6% to 8%. The potential internal rates of return for opportunity zones are in the low double digits, and they are massively tax advantageous in a way that the S&P 500 isn’t.

If you own a single stock that has appreciated greatly over 20 years, say, from a 5% position to 20%, and you want to bring your exposure down, you calculate your capital gain, and opportunity zones let you transfer 100% of that gain into a real estate investment that will have a projected return higher than the broad market. Right now, we are reducing risk within our equity assets, so it’s good timing for us that we can defer or eliminate some of the embedded capital gains tax, but it is a 10-year holding period.

The opportunity zones across the U.S. are without question unequal in terms of appeal. You want to be a first mover, and there may be periods in coming years when it’s not as attractive as you model it out. In two to four years, as many of these areas receive a lot of investment, it will likely get more expensive. That’s the fly in the ointment.

The opportunity zones where we are initially investing for clients are in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Miami. Two of those are construction from the ground up; the other is acquiring and redeveloping existing infrastructure.

The other way to play: I’m interested in the intersection of technology and sports. If you look at how much focus and effort and energy and money goes into high-school and grade-school sports, it’s staggering. I have a small holding in Keemotion, which has automated video-production systems for capturing sports events. I also invested in K-Motion, which has developed a very thin vest with sensors that judge your range of motion, provide data and help you self-correct. It started in the golf industry, but has moved into baseball. These sorts of companies have technology that can be commercialized for professional leagues and scouts, but their application could be very broad and made affordable to the masses, maybe through a subscription.

Would I pay $100 a year to see a game my kids were playing in—live—while I’m sitting at work? You bet I would.

Carter Reum

Co-founder at M13 and member of Tiger 21

In a world getting ever more complex, hectic and interconnected, the need to find time to simplify and disconnect is more important than ever. We know tools and practices like meditation make a difference—but it’s also really hard to get that right. Technology has now become an overlay on nearly every product and category, so I’m very excited to see some of the new technologies and companies that help people do meditation more seamlessly.

The U.S. meditation market is projected to increase to $2.1 billion from $1.2 billion over the next four years, with growth primarily driven by digital apps. Meditation is growing in prevalence, with about 35 million American adults meditating in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even practice by children has increased, rising from 0.6% in 2012 to 5.4% in 2017.

Brands like Headspace and Calm have each grown to more than 1 million paid subscribers, and companies like Wave Meditation create culturally relevant, music-driven experiences that remind me of the early stages before yoga became mainstream. The easier and more enjoyable the experience is—more like a music app than a meditation app—the more people will be able to participate. If Wave or someone else can build a platform around brand, content, software, music and hardware, I can easily envision the next Peloton emerging. Habits build early, and the practice becomes regular—and that opens up adjacent opportunities in the space, including lifestyle, accessories and technology.

One thing you can count on as an investor is that the world is going to get more stressful. So tools to help people cope with that reality and live in a happier and healthier way are always attractive bets.

Another way to play: Many of my friends are art collectors, and I followed their lead, especially after joining the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I’ve enjoyed getting to understand the value of collecting traditional art, from an aesthetic and monetary perspective, but recently started to focus on investing in what my brother and business partner Courtney calls “the new art”—crystals. He said his crystal collection brought him more joy than his “regular” art, and he believes crystals have unique powers. This initially seemed crazy to me, but there’s evidence for their impact on well-being, and I’m becoming aware of the real, burgeoning market for crystals, especially ones of larger size and limited supply, which can cost upward of $100,000.

Mark Perry

Managing Director at Wilshire Private Markets

Today’s low-interest-rate environment has driven investors into increasingly risky assets in search of yield. Capital supply has outpaced capital demand in more “traditional” investment instruments, bringing lower expected returns and higher risk in the most commoditized market segments. Fortunately, opportunistic private markets enable an array of solutions that provide investors with the return that they demand, while enhancing their ability to diversify risk.

Two strategies that exemplify this are litigation finance and franchise-restaurant lending.

Litigation finance has existed for years in the form of third-party financial support to litigants in exchange for a share of any financial recovery from the lawsuit. One preferred means of accessing this strategy is more of a credit approach, where highly structured loans are originated to plaintiffs, law firms, or other related legal businesses collateralized by litigation-linked assets and legal fees. By securing loans against pools of pre- and post-settlement litigation outcomes, these credit strategies seek to avoid the binary risk inherent in other segments of the litigation-finance market. The set of specialty finance groups making such loans is relatively small, resulting in a pocket of market inefficiency that enables the potential for outsized returns.

A similar void in “traditional” capital markets has been targeted by groups that provide structured financing to fast-food restaurant franchisees. The quick-service and fast-casual restaurant segments are characterized by simple, formulaic business models that, by virtue of their low price point, have historically proven to be cyclically resilient while benefiting from secular trends in consumer behavior and technological innovation. Specialized groups that target this growing, fragmented segment of the restaurant space can find potential value.

While neither of these strategies is risk-free, the risk bears little correlation to the broader markets and other types of yield-focused investments.

Another way to play: A creative way to access uncorrelated returns is by investing in the future earnings of minor league baseball players. This involves purchasing equity “shares” in a player in exchange for a percentage of that player’s future earnings. Such a strategy is particularly well-suited to baseball, compared with other sports, given its rich quantitative data set. The risk, though venture-like in its binary nature, is balanced by outsized return potential.

Mark Mobius

Founder of Mobius Capital Partners

When I first started investing in emerging markets in 1987, they accounted for just 5 percent of global market cap, and today it’s about 40 percent. Our funds could only invest in six markets, and today it’s about 70. That makes diversification so much easier. Now is the time to buy in emerging markets, where we are seeing a terrific recovery.

Brazil is up 40 percent from its bottom, but there is still upside as every sector is going to benefit from a reform-minded government. There is a sea change in the whole political environment in the wake of scandals still being prosecuted. Take Petrobras, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, which is changing its whole system top-to-bottom to ensure corruption won’t happen. All companies are aware of corporate governance and making sure they are on the up-and-up. This is very positive for foreign investors. With more law and order, the consumer sector will do particularly well.

If you like technical analysis, many of the markets had a double bottom. There are still low price-to-earnings and price-to-book ratios. PE valuations in Russia are only five times; that’s below even Pakistan. The Russian market looks very, very cheap.

Based on fundamentals, we like the consumer-oriented companies in India, whose economy is looking to 8 or 9 percent growth. Software is big in India, and we like medium-sized companies in traditional industries adopting internet solutions. India’s byzantine distribution system is changing dramatically because of technology, tax reforms and the elimination of tariffs between states within the country. Despite the challenges facing them, Amazon and Walmart are forcing local companies to raise their game.

There are a lot of bad loans at big banks, and the government will bail them out and recapitalize them. That’s going to weigh on the currency. We are going to see a weakening in the rupee because of the coming election and the necessity for the ruling BJP to give farmers goodies. But this weakening is temporary, and the central bank has been good in terms of stabilizing the currency over time. I would put 30 percent of emerging markets money in India.

We also are looking at winners from the China-U.S. trade war. Vietnam stands to gain as manufacturing is relocating there from southern China. The same is true elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Mexico, which reached a trade deal with the U.S. and Canada last year, is also a beneficiary. Global trade is like a big balloon: Push one place, it goes out in another.

In completely bombed-out countries like Turkey, there will always be opportunities. The losers are the guys in debt. Those not heavily in debt will be winners, get market share and make acquisitions. It is still a manufacturing powerhouse that sells to Europe. The Turkish lira falling 70 percent is excessive. Things will be more stable and maybe have some upside potential.

The other way to play: My alternative investment idea is old bond certificates, for which there is a small but passionate following. I like the ones that capture a moment in history. For example, during the U.S. Civil War the North issued two-year interest-bearing notes with a coupon rate of 6 percent in 1861 and a face value of $50. One sold in August at an auction of part of the Joel R. Anderson Collection of U.S. Paper Money for $1.02 million, more than double its pre-sale high estimate.

Sarah Heller

Master of Wine at Heller Beverage Consultancy

As global warming produces hotter temperatures and more severe weather patterns, the wine industry is particularly vulnerable. Parts of California and Australia are particularly threatened, forcing growers to look for cooler climes by planting at higher altitudes or on cooler coastal-influenced sites, but fire risk and soil salinization are further challenges.

Because of its unique climate, New Zealand looks set for a slightly smoother ride. Not only are its summers cooler, but its vineyards’ proximity to the sea (the farthest point inland is only about 120 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west) will help temper the effects of climate change. The closer you are to the water, the stronger the moderating effect of the ocean.

At the same time, New Zealand is trying to upgrade more of its wine production from ready-to-consume bottlings to fine wines that have longevity in the bottle and command a premium. A handful of wineries have started producing premium sauvignon blancs, but the potential for higher-end chardonnay is just starting to be explored on a larger scale.

In 30 to 50 years, both Australia and California may have limited sites available for the production of top cool-climate chardonnay, which is steadily gaining in popularity worldwide. Thus, I would advise picking up New Zealand land not currently under cultivation, or currently considered marginal because it’s too cool or up on hillsides.

Despite New Zealand’s 2017 law that restricts foreign investment in real estate, it is still possible to buy up to five hectares (12.4 acres) of land at a time if it is designated for horticulture. A typical parcel of unplanted land of that size, located on the fringes of top wine-producing regions Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, might only cost you $250,000. For another $750,000, you could plant and cover a few years of farming and contract wine-making costs.

Remember that Le Montrachet, the world’s most expensive cool climate chardonnay that sells for as much as $8,000 a bottle, is produced by Domaine de la Romanee Conti on just 0.68 hectares. The land I propose is far enough from urban areas that you won’t have to compete with real estate developers to buy it.

The other way to play: I love vintage fashion, especially timeless creations by Emilio Pucci from the 1970s that still look contemporary today. While you might find one of his dresses for a few thousand dollars online, celebrity clothing can go for a whole lot more. The Hubert de Givenchy black satin evening gown Audrey Hepburn wore in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" sold for 467,200 pounds ($609,000) at Christie’s in 2006. A one-of-a-kind piece like this tends to appreciate.

Anthony Roth

Chief Investment Officer, Wilmington Trust

We’re getting to the point where distressed-debt investing will become very active. We’ll start to see some companies have a tough time refinancing debt, and that’s when some private equity firms use a loan-to-own strategy. They originate loans with terms that allow them to convert the debt into equity if a company defaults. The strategy returned 15 to 20 percent historically.

An opportunity we offered clients recently was a fund that buys nonperforming loans held by European banks. It’s politically very difficult for banks to foreclose on loans, which range from residential mortgages to debt secured by factory equipment. In many cases, the borrower ceased paying interest due to financial stress, but also knows the bank won’t foreclose.

A private equity firm can buy loans at 60 to 70 cents on the dollar and immediately say to the borrower: “Pay me or I’ll foreclose.” Usually, borrowers buy the loan back at 95 to 98 cents on the dollar. Net returns could be high teens. Clients had to make a $250,000 minimum investment and be qualified purchasers with at least $5 million in other investments.

You wouldn’t want to get into this right before a major economic downturn in Europe, but a relatively run-of-the-mill recession wouldn’t be a big deal. In many cases, loans are bought and sold within 12 to 18 months, so a PE firm can have a good feel for the economic outlook when they buy them.

The other way to play: I collect the furniture of Sam Maloof, one of the primary exponents of American mid-century modern furniture. His hand-crafted pieces use beautiful wood joined without nails or metal. He’s best known for his rocking chairs. The White House arts and crafts collection has one, and so does the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think his low-back armchairs are actually more beautiful, and are incredibly elegant. They sell for around $15,000 to $20,000.

JD Montgomery

Managing Director at Canterbury Consulting

One of my themes for this year is the future of food. People are caring more about what they’re eating and putting in their bodies, so I’m looking at food startups.

Investing in tech startups can be very capital-intensive, and it takes a long time to build something that’s very scalable. “Instant overnight successes" only took 10 years! But investing in food startups is different. The big consumer packaged-goods brands don’t innovate very effectively, so they’re looking to pick up new brands. Venture capital firm Obvious Ventures has outlined five forces driving food companies it funds: Products need to be accessible, organic, plant-based, local and fresh—though a single product may not hit all five.

There are two ways to get exposure to this trend. You could either invest in venture funds like Collaborative Fund or Obvious that have allocations to consumer brands, or you can try to invest directly, like I’ve done. I’ve found that once you discover one brand, more start coming out of the woodwork.

These new companies are able to compete against established brands either by selling through Amazon.com or going direct to the consumer through companies like Shopify and Ordergroove. They don’t have to buy all the equipment necessary to make their products; they can subcontract that out to external facilities. And you can get almost-free advertising these days by using influencers.

One of the nice things is that you don’t need a tremendous amount of capital to invest—from $100,000 to $500,000 per brand—and the time required to build a scalable business is much shorter than for other startups. Valuations might be $3 million to $10 million at seed and angel fundraising stages. Big brands are keen to pay $100 million to $200 million, or even more. It’s a nice return on capital, and I’d rather have people eat great, clean products instead of sugary, chemical-filled products.

The other way to play: My recommendation is esports, and I’d play it two ways. I’d spend 40 percent of my $1 million investing in picks and shovels—game-agnostic infrastructure that supports gaming. Some clients and I just made an allocation to a company called Discord, a chat platform for gaming with over 200 million users. The other 60 percent I’d distribute among three teams. Interesting names include Cloud9, 100 Thieves and Seoul Dynasty. The most valuable team, Cloud9, is worth $310 million, but you can access smaller teams at a much lower cost. There are also funds you can invest with. Ultimately I believe there will be tokenization and distributed ownership of these teams. The size of the industry already is incredible to me, and we’re just getting started.

Norman Villamin

Chief Investment Officer, Private Banking, Union Bancaire Privee

Whenever investors think about growth, Japan rarely comes to mind. It’s easy to see why: The real estate bust of the 1980s left the economy stagnant for decades, and big Japanese corporations didn’t have the dynamism of their counterparts in the U.S. But Japanese society is being reshaped by something new—the unprecedented entry of women into the workforce. Almost 53 percent of Japan’s labor force was female last year.

This reminds me of the big changes in the U.S. labor market in the 1970s, when the decline of manufacturing in the Midwest, wage stagnation and unemployment drove women to go out and get jobs. All that extra income stimulated the American economy, and I believe the same thing is going to happen in Japan. Think about all the ways this shift will reverberate in the economy: Families will need more child care, women will have to buy more workplace apparel and households will even eat out more when both spouses are super-busy at work.

So I’m advising clients to play this megatrend by unearthing small and mid-cap stocks that can rapidly grow as these changes unfold. That includes employment agencies that provide temporary, part-time and permanent workers, apparel makers and retail enterprises that cater to working women, and restaurant and leisure activity enterprises that thrive on discretionary income. I know it sounds hard to believe, but Japan—a market that’s so often overlooked—may finally be exciting, if you know where to look.

The other way to play: Music royalties are a really nice way to capture yield in a low-interest-rate world, and the best part is that this investment doesn’t move in lockstep with the rest of the fixed-income world. Music royalties move to the, ahem, beat of their own drummer. This isn’t exactly a new asset class; back in the late ‘90s, David Bowie issued bonds backed by revenue from his music. Investors have been buying publishing rights to hit song catalogs for ages. What’s different now is that investors don’t have to buy Lennon & McCartney tunes.

With the advent of streaming and the explosion of shows on Netflix and Amazon in need of soundtracks, even obscure songs can produce returns. There are investment trusts that buy the songs of platinum-selling artists and breathe new life into them in ads, TV and film. You can also buy song rights from the composers, rather than the recorded music. If you’d rather go it alone, you can bid for music rights put up for sale by their owners on online music exchanges that have emerged in recent years.

Darrin Woo

Director of Woo Hon Fai Group

Because of my family background—my grandfather founded Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong in 1950—I believe in the physicality of gold. I would buy a million dollars’ worth of bullion bars and stuff them under my mattress. Gold has underperformed the S&P 500 index for the past five years. SPX has delivered 46 percent in that time, and gold has lost 1 percent. In the next 10 years gold is one of the best contrarian plays. I say buy when no one else does.

I also like the idea of digital tokens backed by physical gold. If you talk to millennials, they aren’t interested in buying stocks and don’t even have brokerage accounts, and they can’t afford real estate. So they are looking for a store of value that’s also convenient. They are interested in new technology and blockchain and using a digital wallet. But unlike Bitcoin and Ether, whose prices trade wildly, gold-backed tokens have an intrinsic value and should be a lot less volatile. I’ve participated in an early round of funding in Santa Clara-based Emergent Technologies Holdings, a company which is creating the world’s first digital token called G-Coin backed by gold produced in accordance with World Gold Council and Responsible Jewellery Council standards. The resulting gold can be tracked from mine to vault using blockchain.

The other way to play: I’m also a classic car collector. For the past several years nearly everything has appreciated but don’t be fooled by a rising tide lifting all boats. Like stocks, blue chips will fare best in a downturn. That means focusing on investment-grade cars that are rare but not too rare and will hold their value. For $1 million and change you can pick up a Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing. Only 1,400 were ever made between 1954 and 1957. But remember, unlike other asset classes, classic cars are expensive to maintain, so aren’t a good hedge against inflation. Neither is gold, but it’s much cheaper to park.

Stefan Hofer

Chief Investment Strategist LGT Bank, Hong Kong

The key questions that high-net-worth individual investors ask today are, “should I close out my U.S. equity positions” and “is it time to buy China?” On the former, we advise clients to stick with their U.S. positions, or if markedly still underweight, to actually add more. On the latter, we think it is too soon to average-down or stock up on China-related equities, notwithstanding their significant underperformance this year.

On the U.S., the growth story is just too compelling to ignore: according to U.S. Federal Reserve, household wealth in the U.S. has now exceeded $100 trillion – it is very likely that this is the largest pool of wealth in recorded human economic history. The pre-Global Financial Crisis peak in U.S. wealth in 2007 was close to $70 trillion.

With additional fiscal stimulus from the White House in 2019 a distinct possibility, the next U.S. recession could be pushed out beyond 2020, something that equity markets are likely to cheer. For the full year, U.S. firms’ earnings are forecast to grow at 23 percent, which again is well ahead of European peers at 9 percent.

In terms of valuations, with a 12 month forward price to earnings ratio of 17 times, some investors maintain that the U.S. is simply expensive. It is undeniable that there are “cheaper” equity markets to be found. We would argue, however, that given uniquely strong U.S. economic momentum, investors can expect to pay more to own these fundamentals, and won’t be wrong to do so.

On China, there is lingering uncertainty as to how far the current slowdown will go, as the economy absorbs the cross-currents of lowering debt, and at the same time, the central government increases spending to buffer the impacts of the ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. We may see some improvements on this front as Presidents Trump and Xi are expected to discuss trade at the G-20 in Argentina.

For China stocks, it is arguably too soon to say where the floor will be for growth, and how effective recent policy moves will be. On the plus side, overall food inflation is near zero, and if the November 11 (Single’s Day) sales numbers are anything to go by, the Chinese consumer remains in good health. As such, important economic fundamentals in China appear robust enough to withstand the trade-related shocks that are in the pipeline. That does not mean it is time to buy, however, and we think investors should be patient, as better entry levels are likely to be ahead.

The other way to play: On a purely personal level, my out-of-the-box investment idea is to buy contemporary Korean art, mostly because I purchased a painting by Sungsoo Kim four years ago and am waiting for it to appreciate. It’s hanging in my home and I enjoy it every day.

Edie Hu

Art Advisory Specialist at Citi Private Bank Hong Kong

Before you think about investing $1 million in a painting, make sure you really like what you’re buying. Given the fickle nature of the art market, you could get stuck with it for several years, so get something you’d like to see on your wall. Do your homework and search auction records to avoid buying works that get flipped every couple of years. And in case you missed the memo, the Chinese contemporary art market peaked several years ago.

Now collectors are chasing works by 20th century Asian artists whose western peers have long been recognized. Japan’s Gutai abstract expressionist and avant garde painters like Kazuo Shiraga and Atsuko Tanaka have appreciated steadily in recent years, while western-influenced Korean minimalist painters like Lee Ufan, Park Seo Bo and Chung Sung Hwa are also on the rise.

If black and white is your thing, contemporary ink paintings are undervalued—and they fit nicely with modern décor. And because they draw on the centuries-old “literati” tradition of Imperial Chinese scholars, you can earn extra bragging rights for cultural sophistication. Top works by Shanghai-born Li Huayi, now 70 years old, can be yours for about $600,000 or $700,000, and Liu Dan’s meticulous paintings can still be found for less than $1 million. Collaborative works by New Jersey-based classical landscape painter Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney, an American photographer in Beijing, are among my favorites.

Australian art has been largely overlooked outside the country, and that’s a pity. Next time you’re Down Under, check out the works of Brett Whiteley, who died of a drug overdose in 1992. His vibrant canvases owe a lot to Matisse and other Fauvist painters of the early 20th century. His most expensive work sold for $2.9 million, but there are still plenty of his smaller oils for well under $1 million. His stuff is absolutely beautiful.

The other way to play: For an out-of-the-box idea, think vintage toys. As people get older they get nostalgic for childhood playthings. A Barbie doll sold for $302,500 in 2010, and Gen-Xers have pushed up prices for Star Wars figures, with two Jedi Knights from 1978 going for a combined 100,000 pounds in April. And board games like Monopoly are perennial favorites.

Hao Hong

Head of Research and Chief Strategist at Bocom International Holdings Co.

For the Chinese, time is cyclical, a tapestry of monsoons, seasons and the rise and fall of dynasties. The I-Ching, for instance, is a book of divination based on cycles. And so it is with economies too.

Our research has shown that there exist well-defined short cycles of around three to four years in the U.S. and China’s economies. Every few years when the short cycles in the US and China entwine, significant gyrations will occur in markets and the social domain. We are now about to enter such a phase. The confluence of the declining U.S. and China economic cycles soon will prove to be too tough to overcome.

The significant fall in China’s stock market, which hit a two-year low in September, is a prelude of what is to come. At such volatile times when the bear market beckons, one should refrain from the urge to catch falling knives, even though markets here have cheapened substantially. China will continue to get cheaper but there is no reason for a rebound.

U.S. equities cannot escape this cyclical fate either, and are in for tough times too. As China decelerates, the rest of the world will feel the chill. This is no time to be buying, but neither should you sell. Protect your positions by buying put options, and as long as volatility is low you have got yourself a cheap insurance policy against the downdraft. There will be better entry points after the storm.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury bonds and the U.S. dollar could provide a safe refuge. Gold can help you hedge to your position in U.S. holdings, so if the dollar weakens, gold will strengthen. If you combine the two, you won’t lose money. We don’t recommend high yield corporate bonds, because in times of crisis, they behave just like stocks.

The other way to play: For a really out-of-the-box investment, I would put my money into Kweichow Moutai, the fiery Chinese liquor, the only investment to outperform China’s housing market in the last two decades. Like some of the finest French Bordeaux wines, supply is strictly limited and it appreciates in value with age. A single bottle of 1940 vintage sold for 1.97 million yuan ($287,700) at a July auction in China.

Goodwin Gaw

Chairman of Gaw Capital Partners

Ho Chi Minh City real estate. It’s a no brainer. It’s where southern China was 15 years ago. There is already a lot of migration from southern China opening factories in the country as the mainland ones are shutting down. These export-oriented factories earn hard currency so there are more small and medium-sized enterprises earning dollars. The trade war between the U.S. and China will only accelerate this migration.

The owners of these SMEs want to put their money in high-end residential properties. There is also additional capital inflow from overseas Vietnamese sending money back home.

High-end apartments sell for just $300 per square foot, which is a fraction of Hong Kong, where prices are 10 to 15 times as much.

Foreigners can only buy leasehold, and there is a 30 percent quota on how much of any one project they can own. But you can always sell your property to a local who will convert it to freehold.

The other way to play: For an alternative investment, vintage furniture can be interesting for those with a trained eye. The younger generation is looking for authenticity and the patina that only comes with time. I am a fan of Danish modern design from the 1940s to 1960s. Last year a pair of armchairs by Finn Juhl sold for $120,000 at a Phillips auction here in Hong Kong. One cost just $295 when the model was launched in 1954.

William Ma

Chief Investment Officer Noah Holdings Ltd

With all the clouds on the horizon, trade wars, higher interest rates, inflation, we advise focusing on markets less correlated to global uncertainty. India, which is set to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, is a good place to start. Exports as a percentage of GDP are at the lowest since 2003-2004, but the domestic consumption is the engine of growth, and it’s less sensitive to U.S.-China frictions. The Bollywood, not Hollywood theme applies to many domestic brands from whiskies to motorcycles to local e-commerce giant Flipkart.

Creeping protectionism will be good for these companies. We prefer locally managed hedge funds over ETFs and mutual funds, which have a high weighting in bloated state-owned companies. Though rupee weakness is certainly a risk, most Indian fund managers have hedged their currency exposure by about 50 percent.

We’ve been overweight Vietnam for three years, with about 10 to 15 percent allocation compared with an MSCI weighting of 1 to 2 percent. The country could benefit from a prolonged U.S. trade war with China as manufacturing companies relocate there. It’s like China 15 years ago. Unlike India, we are fine with ETFs because many of Vietnam’s largest cap companies are well-run.

The domestic consumption theme still applies to China too. Watch Foshan Haitian Flavouring & Food Co., the country’s largest soy sauce maker. People are eating better and taking better care of themselves. We see new trends in dental care with many small local companies raising private funds. Per-capita spending on dental care in China is $9 compared with $391 in the U.S.

Now is not the time to be investing in fixed income. There are a lot of people buying treasuries and high yields and spreads are very tight. But equity yields of 3.2 percent in Asia ex-Japan look attractive compared to the 1.9 percent in the U.S. Returns are even better for Chinese companies in the Hang Seng China Equity Index, yielding 4.5 percent.

The other way to play: Meanwhile, you might consider investing in a rare Chinese tea called Da Hong Pao, “Grand Scarlet Robe.” It’s grown in the mountains of northern Fujian province and production is highly regulated. Tea leaves from the handful of original, 300-year-old bushes have sold for the equivalent of more than $1 million per kilo. It is considered the ultimate gift in China.

Figures for the five-year performance of select assets are based on Nov. 23 closing prices.