The Demise of an Investment Portfolio – Emotions and Market Timing

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Jane M. Young, CFP, EA

Forecasting the short-term movement of the stock market and trying to time the market is fruitless. As in all areas of our lives, we can’t control what life throws at us but we can establish a defensive position to best deal with a variety of outcomes. When it comes to our investments, we accomplish this through diversification, dollar cost averaging, maintaining an emergency fund and staying the course. We need to fight the natural inclination to make financial decisions based on emotions. Don’t forget that the stock market is counter-intuitive. Generally, the best time to buy is when things seem really bad and the best time to sell is when things seem the brightest. But then again, we just never know. It is easy to get caught up in the fear or euphoria of the moment. But, keep in mind that emotional reactions to the market can have a devastating impact on your portfolio. The stock market is a long- term investment and we need to avoid reacting to short-term events.

Proof of this can be seen in a Dalbar study conducted in March of 2010 for the time period of 1/1/90 – 12/31/09. During this time the average return in the equity market was 8.8% but the average return for the individual investor was only 3.2%. This discrepancy is a result of investors trying to time the market or reacting emotionally to financial news and events. Below are two quotes that sum this up very well.

“Far more money has been lost by investors in preparing for corrections, or anticipating corrections, than has been lost in the corrections themselves.”
-Peter Lynch, author and former mutual fund manager with Fidelity Investments

“The idea that a bell rings to signal when investors should get into or out of the stock market is simply not credible. After nearly fifty years in this business, I do not know of anybody who has done it (time the market) successfully and consistently. I don’t even know anybody who knows anybody who has done it successfully and consistently”
– John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Investments

Don’t Be Alarmed by the Financial Scaremongers

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Jane M. Young, CFP, EA

About once a week a client asks me about the latest prognostication from some famous so called “financial expert/alarmist.” They are either predicting the demise of the world as we know it or predicting a triple digit increase in the stock market. Maybe I am exaggerating, just a little, but we’ve all experienced those who think they can forecast the future and lead us to “Financial Paradise.” I remind my clients of two things with regard to these “miraculous forecasters.” The first is that most of the TV hosts, radio shows, magazines, and financial authors are in the business of making money by selling magazines, books, and ad space. They are not in the business of providing the consumer with the best possible advice. They want to entertain, tantalize, and terrorize you. This is what gets and keeps our attention. Let’s face it! Good solid investment advice is really boring. It doesn’t change much and doesn’t sell magazines! Secondly, they cannot predict what the market is going to do tomorrow much less six months from now. Historically, no one has ever been able to consistently predict the future of the financial markets. Sure, when you have thousands of people making forecasts a few are bound to get lucky. As a good friend often says, even a blind man eventually hits the bull’s eye.

Develop a solid plan to meet your unique situation and stick with it. Don’t let the financial hype throw you off course. Below are a few quotes that help emphasize the fallacy of placing too much faith in financial forecasts.

“We’ve long felt that the only value of stock forecasts is to make fortune tellers look good. Short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children” (Warren Buffett).

“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window” (Peter Drucker).

” We have two classes of forecasters: Those who don’t know – and those who don’t know they don’t know” (J.K. Galbraith, US Economist and diplomat).