What are you investing for? Many say higher or better returns--but higher or better than what? What do those higher returns make possible for you?
Video recap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKC2ulw3cz8
To have a successful investment experience you need to have a plan in place. Mike Eklund joins me once again on this episode of Financial Symmetry to discuss our 3 step investing process. This process creates the guideposts for all Financial Symmetry clients. Listen in to learn why failing to plan means you are planning to fail.
Have you ever thought about why you are investing in the first place? Before creating your investment plan you’ll want to set your goals. This way you can understand what kind of returns you need in order to achieve your goals.
We are all often guilty of the lottery mindset--that mindset that thinks if we could choose that one next big thing then we would be set. All we needed to do was buy Apple in 2000, or Tesla in 2012, or Bitcoin at $1000. But the reality is, successful investing requires a plan. Your investment plan can help you understand when to buy and sell or increase or reduce risk in your portfolio.
At Financial Symmetry, we use a 3 step process to help our clients achieve their financial goals.
You may be wondering what we at Financial Symmetry offer to our clients. Our clients can expect these 5 things from us.
What is your investment plan? Do you have a rules-based process? Investing is a lot like fitness. Everyone wants to start, but it can be hard to keep up. We can be your financial personal trainer and help you stay on track to reach your goals.
We can make investing easier for you. If you don’t have the knowledge, experience, and interest to do this all on your own we can help.
Stock market manias have an uncanny way of capturing our attention.
Short video recap: https://youtu.be/wr04xy1pDnU
Not only do they dominate weekly headlines, but create visions of what could be. The most recent example is the rapid rise of meme stocks, including Gamestop, AMC and Blackberry among others.
In this episode, we’ll explore what happened with this most recent mania, and describe the why behind how we can become enamored with this type of approach. We'll then offer three questions to provide a framework for the next time you're facing similar feelings.
You may have seen a Game Stop store at your local mall or shopping center. Game Stop is a video game retailer whose future did not look promising. Many people compared it to Blockbuster Video.
This uncertain future attracted the interest of short-sellers and the retailer ended up becoming one of the most heavily shorted stocks. When an online Reddit group discovered what was happening to the stock, many people decided to jump in and stop the short. This sudden influx of investors drove the share price up to unprecedented levels.
Manias are nothing new. We've seen them in many forms including the Nifty Fifty in the 1950s, the tech bubble in the 1990s and BRIC Countries during the 2000s. The speed and size of these rallies can foster a fear of missing out feeling that's is more analogous to gambling.
There's a fine line between gambling and investing. In stock market manias, it's easy for people to throw risk considerations out the window because the possibility of life-changing gains takes over. Subsequently, this mentality could lead to detrimental results when investors are using money they can't afford to lose.
With Game Stop, investing quickly becomes interesting when the stock is increasing like a rocket ship within a week. For many, this strategy looks miles more exciting when compared to a disciplined long-term strategy. This is when the gambling temptation can circumvent the longer-term evidence based approach you may have used up to that point. Enter diversification.
That's because diversification decreases your investment risk. When you diversify, you invest in many different types and sizes of companies all over the world. The goal of diversification is to ensure the performance of one specific stock won’t impact your entire portfolio.
If you find yourself considering a specific stock purchase, there are a few questions that can help your decision.
Your investment strategy will be most appropriate for you when it's created in service to your financial plan. A plan that is specifically created for your goals and circumstances. Understanding the interaction between your income and future expenses for the next few years.
Carefully considering your investment decisions and ensuring that they align with a cohesive and diversified investment strategy will help you stay on target to reach your long-term goals.
From a historically quick bear market decline to a speedy rebound, 2020 certainly took us on a wild ride. But there is a lot we can learn from this crazy year.
Short video recap: https://youtu.be/fUfGwGk-gEY
In this episode, we are reflecting on the investment lessons we learned over the past year. What were the lessons you took away in 2020? Listen in to hear if there are any other lessons you can learn from the year.
Historically, the S&P 500 returns 8-10% per year. Since markets go up in the long term, people who focus on the long-term growth of the stock and bond markets, as well as the growth of the economy, will prosper.
This lesson was put to the test in March of 2020 when we had the shortest bear market in history. Investors that stuck it out profited greatly. From March 23 to the end of 2020 the market went up an astonishing 68%.
Since no one has a crystal ball, buying in a bear market can be scary. This is why we recommend having an investment plan or a rules-based process in place.
If you lost sleep over or sold stocks during the decline then you need to reassess your asset allocation. How did you fare in the market decline? Were you an optimist or pessimist? Did you stick to your investment plan and wait it out?
These days, the markets move at lightning speed. At this velocity, people often feel like they need to stay on top of all the latest financial news. However, listening to the financial media can hinder your ultimate goal. The media’s job is to sell advertising, not to help you reach your financial goals.
Even if all the uncertainty drives you crazy, step away from the sensationalist news. The number one predictor of long-term investment success is investment behavior, so teach yourself the discipline not to act on every little thing you hear on the news. Turn off your notifications and guard your time instead.
We all hear the rags to riches stories about the latest fads. Raise your hand if you have a friend who has struck it rich with Bitcoin lately. These stories can be so powerful, however, no one ever talks about the downside.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is real and we often want to jump on the latest bandwagon, whether it be Bitcoin, gold, or whatever the new shiny thing is. At the end of the day, the value of what you own is only what someone else is willing to pay you.
If you still want to jump on the latest bandwagon understand your motive and think about the impact of your investment on your financial plan.
Motivated by the new book, How I Invest My Money, I (Mike Eklund) wanted to communicate how I manage my own money. In our recent podcast, we discuss my approach with investments, savings, spending, debt, insurance, and what the money is for (goals). We also review some of my core beliefs which include:
Near the end of the podcast, we discuss one of the best investments I’ve ever made. As a married father of four kids, it is our purchase of a lake cabin where we create many family memories. This investment return is determined based on actual experiences as they far outweigh any financial return.
Finally, we finish with what the money is for. Primarily three things:
I hope you enjoy the podcast!
Growth stocks have been on a tear over the past several years. However, traditionally value stocks have been the big performers in the long-term. But with the rapid rise in growth over the last 10 years, are value stocks still worth it?
Video recap: https://youtu.be/qthoQhw9IxA
Today we explore the question: can value stocks still outperform in today’s environment? We’ll look at the data, provide you with the information, and then lay out action steps that you can take to act on what you learn.
Before we begin to explore our question we need to clarify the difference between growth stocks and value stocks. Growth stocks are faster growing, more expensive, and have a lower dividend yield. They are those stocks that you hear about on the news: Facebook, Tesla, and Google are a few. Value stocks have slower growth, are cheaper, and have a higher dividend yield. These are the ‘boring’ stocks and include Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, and Wal-Mart.
Let’s look back at history to compare the two types of stocks. From 1926-2010 value stocks grew 12.4% per year whereas growth companies returned 9.8% per year. However, the last ten years have been very different.
Over the last 3 years, growth stocks have outperformed value stocks by 21% per year. This is the highest 3-year difference on record. Which begs the question, is this time different? Listen in to hear about a similar time period in history.
Much of the growth that we have seen over the past 3 years has been driven by FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). It seems like these stocks could keep growing forever without any competition. And most recently they have all accelerated their growth with the Covid situation. On the flip side, value stocks have been hit hard by the pandemic.
But are the growth stocks becoming overvalued? Will this growth end up collapsing like the tech bubble of the late 90s?
Do you have an investment strategy? It is important to implement a disciplined, rules-based process. Have a process, have a plan, and stick with it. At the end of the day, investor behavior is the key to success.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t own growth companies, we simply recommend a using diversified approach. We like to say that something in your portfolio should always stink. What does your investment strategy look like? Do you have a hard time hanging on to the losers?
If you are interested in working with a professional to help you come up with an investment strategy, consider using a fee-only financial advisor. Learn what makes fee-only financial advisors different by visiting our website https://www.financialsymmetry.com/.
While the FAANG stocks have been the most obvious enviable stock positions over the past decade, there are always success stories readily available to raise feelings of doubt and FOMO in even the most disciplined long-term investors.
Video recap: https://youtu.be/FN4xHoe8mHE
For example, investors who purchased $100,000 of Zoom stock at its IPO price of $36/share in April of 2019 would have earned a cumulative rate of return of about 590% and built a nest egg of ~$650k.
Zoom is one of the most recent examples of a company whose stock performance has exceeded expectations so wildly over the past 18 months that it is tempting to wish we were a part of the action and predict that those results will continue in the future, making us very wealthy in the process. After all, the path to extreme wealth is often created through very concentrated positions in individual companies. Examples include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and many others. What made them so lucky? And why shouldn’t we be able to identify companies that will post results like these?
While individual stocks might not kill us, they do pose catastrophic risks that have the potential to be detrimental to our wealth. The nature of individual stock returns was studied in detail in Hendrik Besseminder’s 2018 study in the Journal of Financial Economics, “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” which covered stock performance from 1926-2015. These are some of the key findings:
While the data is compelling that the odds are stacked against us on individual stocks, often the allure is just too strong. There is no reward without risk, right? Some of us may still want to take advantage of the growth potential of an individual stock position for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to have ownership in the company you work for or do business with frequently. You may have also inherited or been gifted individual stock positions. These might even have sentimental value for your family. Or you may just have a feeling about that company. If you find yourself in one of these situations, we recommend setting a decision-making framework for how you will buy, hold, and sell these positions:
For further reading on creating a decision-making framework and avoiding common investor pitfalls, we recommend Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow,” and“Decisive,” by Chip and Dan Heath. If you find yourself called by the Siren Song of an individual stock or deciding how to manage positions you may already own, please contact us to discuss the best approach for your personal situation in more detail.
Every 4 years it happens: an election comes along and threatens everything. Or so it seems.
Video recap: https://youtu.be/7SkvyKEXH6s
Regardless of how you feel about the candidates, we’re here to discourage you from making fear-based financial moves. Learn how to overcome your emotions so that you don’t derail your careful long-term investment strategy.
It’s hard to get away from the drama of the election coverage. It’s everywhere you look: on the TV, in the newspapers, and even from the notifications on your phone. This kind of round the clock, in your face news coverage can heighten your anxiety about the state of the world and even make you worry about your investments. It is important to remember that the media is not there to help you. Its goal is to sell advertising, not to help you achieve your financial goals.
While 2016 may seem like a distant memory, many investors were concerned at the time that a Trump victory would surely tank the stock market. We fielded a lot of calls leading up to the 2016 election discussing if a more conservative approach should be taken, at least until we had more certainty.
While Trump’s victory was a surprise to many 4 years ago, it certainly was not devastating for the stock market. In fact, the S&P 500 with dividends returned 21.83% in the following calendar year of 2017.
Investors who moved into cash to await more clarity would have swiftly regretted their decision. Check out the chart linked below which shows annualized returns for each president dating back to 1969 with the red and blue bars depicting results for Republicans and Democrats.
Staying focused on your long-term financial goals can be a challenge when the short-term seems so uncertain. People often feel tempted to time the market when the world feels up in the air. It’s important to remember that the market is influenced by many other events, not solely the election. So even if it seems that the election is the only thing going on, you need to stay focused on your long-term financial goals, stick with your investment plan, and avoid market timing.
One way to help you stay focused on your long-term financial goals is by looking at the facts. If you were thinking that this might be a good year to sit out the stock market, you may want to think again. On average, the stock market return in an election year is 11%, which is well above average.
Another surprising fact is that it doesn’t matter to your portfolio who is in the White House. There is actually no correlation between stock market performance and which party leads the country. Listen in to find out which two presidents saw the same economic growth during their first three years in the Oval Office, the answer will surprise you.
In investing, there are many factors that are beyond your control. However, that does not mean that your entire financial life is uncontrollable. Actually, the factors that you can control have a lot more to do with your financial success than which investments you choose. Think about all you can control: your cash flow, when you need money, when you stop earning income, what your income sources in retirement will be, how you pay for healthcare, and your estate planning. These controllables are much more important to your financial well being.
We know how important it is to save for retirement, but at the same time, it’s important to enjoy life now. In this episode, we’ll walk you through how to set up a framework for your investment strategy.
Short Youtube Recap: https://youtu.be/LRcH7hwbUYY
You’ll learn how important your behavior is to your investment success, how to think through your asset allocation choices and finally how to select the investments themselves.
What is your investment approach? How you make decisions with your investments can make or break your investment success. You may think that your returns are solely based upon which investments you choose, but the reality is that your investment behavior figures into your returns much more than any specific investment that you choose.
Think about last March. What was your reaction to that volatile market? Did you buy, sell, or do nothing? Even though it’s challenging to know how to react in those moments, in a volatile market every move you make counts.
The dominant determinant of long-term, real-life financial outcomes isn’t investment performance; it’s investor behavior. –Around The Year with Nick Murray
The second driver to success in investing is your asset allocation. Asset allocation is simply the measure of how your portfolio is dispersed. How much do you have invested in stock and bonds? What percentage of your stocks are US-based? What percentage are international? Asset allocation also takes into account whether your stocks are large-cap, small-cap, etc. Your asset allocation is an important part of realizing your investment returns.
It’s important to have an independent mindset to help you pick your stocks. You don’t want to just follow the pack and do what everyone else is doing. There are several key areas that help us choose stocks at Financial Symmetry. The areas are ethical company culture, low costs, evidence-based, tax-efficient, and whether it is repeatable. We continually ask questions about the investments we choose. And if we don’t like the answers, we don’t invest in those companies.
What is your investment plan? Think about the strategy that you have used to make decisions about investing. An investment plan includes more than investments, it encompasses behavior and asset allocation. If you don’t have one consider working with a fee-only financial advisor. Having an investment plan could be the difference between a successful retirement and an uncertain one. What is your investment strategy? Try taking the quiz in our blog post to determine your investment composure.
No one can argue that the stock market has been tumultuous lately. During times of market uncertainty, investors seem to become even more certain about their predictions of the next stock market moves.
Short YouTube Recap: https://youtu.be/ShmeDGPQ3l4
As people make these predictions over time the stakes get bigger and bigger. Listen to this episode to hear what steps you can take to fight this prediction hubris.
When markets become more volatile, the desire to control our outcomes becomes stronger. Our instincts pressure us to make predictive moves of what we feel is going to happen. This is when the ability to stay disciplined can have the biggest impact.
Otherwise, we find ourselves sweating out extreme buy and sell decisions that could cause you to miss the biggest market moving days. There was a good chance of this with our latest examples over the last 3 months, when you saw 3 of the worst 25 single day losses and 2 of the largest 25 day gains, happened in the S&P 500.
This is why we created a thought exercise to help you reflect on your investment strategy during times of market stress. We’re calling it the “R” Plan, where we provide five steps to fight the inevitable prediction hubris that occurs during these periods.
The R plan
In times of crisis and uncertainty, the potential need to access our savings seems to rise to the forefront. However, many of the accounts that we utilize for our savings are tied to certain restrictions. For example, the age 59.5 restriction for retirement account withdrawals without facing a 10% penalty, or HSAs and 529 accounts which must be used for medical expenses and education expenses respectively. These unique accounts are great tools to efficiently invest our savings given the tax deferred or tax-free growth. The issue though is what happens when we need funds to cover items that don’t meet the parameters and restrictions set forth by these accounts.
COVID-19 has me pondering my own finances and how well equipped they are to be flexible in times of need. These circumstances we’re in have produced many implications to our finances and society with a big one being the impact of education from pre-school age all the way through college.
We’ve seen a shift to more online educational resources in recent years and this has only escalated with the impacts of COVID-19. College students have spent the better part of their spring 2020 semester living at home and completing their coursework online. While certainly not the college experience these students anticipated, they’re still able to receive a quality education without the cost of living in a dorm room on campus or 3+ meals per day at the campus dining hall. We’ve even seen some refunds returned to students which if were withdrawn from a 529 account originally, then that money needs to go back into the 529 account to avoid taxes/penalties.
So what does this mean for our college savings strategy? For my two 2.5-year-old boys I’ve been saving monthly in a 529 account since they were born with intention to provide a portion of their college education from the 529 account. However, I’ve reconsidered this strategy this week and am shifting to utilizing a couple other accounts for their future savings. At Financial Symmetry we had many discussions with clients about not over-funding college savings accounts given the high taxes and penalty if not used for education along with discussions about savings for the parents own retirement and financial independence.
A great savings tool as the contributions can we withdrawn at any time tax-free, and the earnings grow tax free and can be withdrawn after age 59.5. This is the primary account I’ll now be using for future education needs for my twin boys as I’ll be able to withdraw the contributions for the education if needed. If for whatever reason they don’t need those funds for college then no worries as I can retain the Roth IRA for my own future financial needs. With a 529 plan though, I wouldn’t be able to do that as those funds would be restricted to education expenses.
I ran the numbers on the actual advantage 529 accounts do provide. Say my monthly contributions add up to $15k and earn $5k over the years to equate a $20k balance. Those earnings would be tax free in a 529 account for education expenses. If those funds were instead in a taxable brokerage account and assuming a 22% federal tax bracket this would be $1,100 of tax due on those earnings. You must weigh the flexibility of a non 529 account vs. the tax savings it can provide. Also consider that with proper tax planning in a brokerage account could mean even less taxes due given accessibility of tax efficient funds, tax loss harvesting, donating earnings to charity as ways to lower that tax bill.
Certainly nothing wrong with using a 529 account as you’re still saving for your children’s future needs, but just consider there are other vehicles that may be more appropriate given your financial situation. Also, depending on your financial situation there are other factors to consider such as financial aid.
Why is the stock market doing so well when the economy is not?
Short Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/QubNZjHHN04
With headlines about skyrocketing unemployment and an impending recession, how has the stock market rebounded so quickly? Despite the historic drops in March, the S&P 500 is only hovering in a range 10-15% from its overall highs. While the stock market and the economy are influenced by each other, there are key differences that emerge during market extremes.
We have all heard the negative news surrounding the economy. It seems to be one of the only topics that news channels talk about. GDP declined 5% in the first quarter and is expected to decline by 20-30% in the second quarter. Unemployment has shot up at a historic pace from 5% to 15% in just a few short months. However, the Federal Reserve and the CARES Act have helped keep people and companies on their feet.
The stock market went through record-setting drops back in March but since then it has bounced in the 35-40% range off the lows. We are still nowhere near the all-time highs that preceded those March declines, but the S&P 500 continues to rise and has been trading in a range 10-15% below it's all time highs reach in February. This creates confusion for most in the face of terrible economic headlines. One reason is that companies and investors are constantly looking at what is to come. They aren’t making decisions based just on the next 6 months, instead, they are projecting the growth over the next 5-10 years. It’s also important to remember that for every distressed seller there is a buyer. Investors are considering their bets for the future and if they anticipate we've seen the worst, then better than expected potential outcomes can drive stocks higher.
Historically, the stock market tends to make a recovery before the economy. For example in 2009 the stock market hit its bottom in March, but the country continued in its recession until the second half of that year. World War II is another example. The stock market was up every year during that period, despite all the turmoil going on in the world and the restrictions that were put in place by the war.
Well, unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball. But there are plenty of opinions you can find from watching the headlines or talking to your neighbors. This type of information can be detrimental not only to your mental state but also to your pocketbook. Allowing your emotions to take the investing wheel, can leave you second-guessing your investment strategy. In fact, the next time you want to look at your investment statements, we'd suggest opening your financial plan instead. You’re better off focusing on what you can control, like your risk tolerance, your rate of saving and spending, and your tax situation. Evaluating how your personal economy has changed, can leave you better positioned for the long-term. This allows you to have the appropriate investment allocations, so your worry can be abated, no matter how wild the stock market or economy gets in the short-run.
We’re all surprised at the speed of changes the coronavirus has brought in our lives. Working from home, school closures, and social distancing have become our new norms. Stock markets have fallen in to a bear market in less than a month. Uncertainty related to COVID-19 grows daily, as we all know the amount of new cases are destined to rise.
It can be hard to find positives through the barrage of more disappointing news each day. But there are steps you can take to prepare your portfolio during this bear market. In today’s episode, we share 7 tips to help ease your worries during this challenging time.
We all feel nervous about stock market drops. Despite bear markets happening an average of every 6-7 years, it never gets easier to handle emotionally. During these times, investment behavior determines your returns more than the investments themselves.
Having an investment plan beforehand adds discipline to your decisions amidst the turmoil. If you’re questioning what you should do, then referring back to your plan will remind you of your highest priorities.
When you think about it, you only really have 3 options to choose from.
With the first one, being much more damaging long-term than the others. To cope with this, we’ve put together seven things you can do to help ease your worry so you are better prepared to make more sound financial decisions.
Cornoavirus concerns continue to impact the financial markets, as have all the numberless crises that have gone before it.
While the potential human and economic effects are very unsettling, what actions should a prudent investor take given this new development?
Short Video Recap Here: https://youtu.be/Wsy6OTuY-yI
It remains impossible to predict when and how this problem will be resolved. Likewise, it is impossible to know when and how the markets will anticipate (or react to) such a resolution.
In this episode of the Financial Symmetry show, hosts Chad Smith and Mike Eklund, evaluate all the available information to determine how you should approach your investment strategy.
Market declines are a regular occurrence and happen frequently. Selloffs provide an opportunity for investors to absorb new information, squeeze out excesses and reset values to more attractive levels.
For existing retirees, we set-up portfolios to include 5-7 years’ worth of high-quality bonds/cash to absorb market declines. For savers, market declines are great news as it allows you to buy stocks at lower prices through regular contributions.
We understand the desire to try to head off market declines by moving into safety. However, our view is that the only way to capture the full permanent returns of equities is to ride out their temporary declines.
The danger of trying to time the market is that you will sabotage your personal investment strategy by getting out at the wrong time and then compounding that by getting back in at the wrong time.
The Financial Symmetry Podcast is an original podcast from Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about the show or the past 105 episodes, visit https://www.financialsymmetry.com/retirement-podcast/.
The hosts and guests in this video do not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice or a guarantee that you will achieve a desired result. You should consult with appropriate tax and financial advisors for advice specific to your situation.
How do you best invest at all-time market highs? In this episode, we are walking through the strategies and disciplines you'll need to be a successful long-term investor.
Short Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/fEXnQ8GaCuk
Visit full article notes here: https://wp.me/p6NrVS-3i0
We often get the question of whether people should continue to invest given the all-time market highs. Well, let’s take a look back to just a year ago. At the end of 2018, the U.S. stock market declined by 20% and everyone was worried about a potential bear market. But it turned out that 2019 was a fantastic year despite all the worries.
We can’t tell you when will be a good time to invest in the short-term. No one can. No one has a crystal ball that can predict those outcomes. It is important to formulate a decision-making process that is not outcome-based. Financial decisions should always be processed based instead.
Think about where you were in December 2009. You probably weren’t too optimistic about the economic future. But it turned out the S&P 500 was the best place to invest over the past 10 years. But in the 10 years preceding it was the worst place to invest.
There is never an easy time to be an investor. Investing always involves risk and many see that risk as a reason not to invest. There is always a risk and plenty of reasons not to invest. But when you look back, you’ll realize recessions, while painful, happen quickly but the market rises over the long run.
After the S&P’s strong run the past 10 years many people wonder why bother to invest internationally or why they should hold any bonds in their portfolio. Even though the S&P 500 performed quite well over the past 10 years, it was the worst place to invest during the previous 10 years. To protect yourself, you’ll need to be diversified. Bonds can not only provide diversification but they can provide income and capital preservation as well. They may not be the most exciting, but bonds will ensure you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket.
Once again we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty. There’s the threat of war, a presidential election, and who knows what else could happen next. Given this time of uncertainty, what changes should we be making to our portfolios? The only sure answer is that you should only be taking as much risk as you can handle. Don’t let recent market performance lull you into taking too much risk.
Listen in to hear the outlook for 2020 and beyond.
Our listeners and clients often ask: Is now a good time to invest? Or what should I invest in? We give feedback on both these questions in our 2019 Investment Outlook episode. Be sure to check out the show notes for this episode in particular as we provide detailed charts to help demonstrate our discussion. If you are curious as to whether now is the time to jump into the stock market, what role bonds play in your portfolio, or what the experts say about the future of the markets then you'll want to listen to this episode.
After logging strong returns in 2017, global equity markets delivered negative returns in US dollar terms in 2018. Common news stories in 2018 included reports on global economic growth, corporate earnings, record low unemployment in the US, the implementation of Brexit, US trade wars, and a flattening US Treasury yield curve.
Many are still wondering why should we invest overseas given returns in the US have been so strong? Investors should remember that non-US stocks help provide valuable diversification benefits, and that recent performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns. It is worth noting that if we look at the past 20 years going back to 1999, US equity markets have only outperformed in 10 of those years—the same expected by chance. We can examine the potential opportunity cost associated with failing to diversify globally by reflecting on the period in global markets from 2000-2009, commonly known as the “lost decade” among US investors. While the S&P 500 recorded its worst ever 10-year cumulative total return of –9.1%, the MSCI World ex USA Index returned 17.5%, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index returned 154.3%. In periods such as this, investors were rewarded for holding a globally diversified portfolio.
Are there risks today to invest in the stock market? Yes. Have their been risks in the past? Yes. Through all these risks the global stock market has gone from $1 to $59 from 1970 to 2017
History has found certain periods have resulted in higher returns than others. Part of this can be explained by starting valuation. Valuation is one of the best indicators of long-term returns (i.e. 10 years), but it is a horrible short-term timing strategy. One popular valuation metric we’ve discussed in the past is the cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio. Instead of dividing price by the past 12 months of earnings, the CAPE ratio divides price by the average inflation-adjusted earnings of the past ten years. The idea is to smooth out the good and bad years created by the business cycle.
Is the CAPE Ratio a good predictor of future returns? According to a study by Research Affiliates titled CAPE Fear: Why CAPE Naysayers are Wrong, starting CAPE Ratio has between a 48% to 91% correlation to future 10-year returns across 12 countries. So yes, starting valuations do matter over the subsequent 10-year period.
In addition, below Exhibit 4 is the average future 10-year real return based on starting US CAPE Ratio. As of December 31, 2018, below are the current CAPE ratios of the major equity markets:
As noted in our recent blog, Crystal Balls and CAPE, when one market (US or foreign) was trading at a material premium (such as today), the other market stock market outperformed over the subsequent 10-year period.
Our belief is that high quality bonds in your portfolio provide the following benefits:
Bond returns are largely driven by the term and credit quality of a bond. Long-term bonds experience bigger price movements for a given change in interest rates. Investor are expected to be compensated for taking that extra risk as a result. The same can be said for lower credit quality bonds such as high yield bonds. As the current time the spreads – the gap between the yield on credit and Treasuries – have remained narrow by historical standards. For bond investors, that means the compensation for taking on credit risk is relatively low, and the upside from here could be quite limited.
Future returns of bonds are highly correlated to the starting yield. Therefore, as of 12/31/2018 the yield on the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Index was approximately 3.28% which is depicted in the exhibit below. Therefore, over the next 7-10 years investors can expect returns similar to starting yield levels. Overall, bond yields have increased over the last couple years, but remain low compared to historical levels.
The Federal Reserve raised rates four times in 2018 and nine total adjustments over the past four years. The benchmark interest rate is in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%. The benefit of this is many investors have seen higher returns from their bank accounts but borrowing costs have also increased. What will the Federal Reserve do next? I have no idea, but below are the current market/Fed expectations as of December 31, 2018. You’ll notice the Federal Reserve and market is not expecting material rate increases from this point forward.
To summarize, with low returns expected for US stocks and bonds many investors allocated primarily to US stocks will be disappointed with returns over the next ten years. As a result, individuals may need to either work longer or spend less than expected to reach their financial goals.
For current savers a market decline should be viewed positively as it allows them to buy stocks at cheaper prices. For existing or soon-to-be-retirees it is important to understand your risk capacity and risk tolerance and adjust your asset allocation accordingly. You’ll need equity for long-term growth, but it is important to have high-quality bonds for current spending.
What can you do about potential lower returns? First, focus on what you can control (spending, taxes, estate planning, etc.) and your long-term financial plan. If you don’t have a financial plan in place, it’s the perfect time to contact a fee-only financial planner such as Financial Symmetry. Second, implement a long-term, disciplined investment strategy. And no, buying the mutual fund/ETF/stock that has done the best over the last three years is not a strategy. If you don’t have a disciplined strategy or want to learn more about our process click here to download our white paper.
2018 gave us a December to remember, with the S&P 500 index losing 9% for the month, locking in the worst December performance since 1931.
From peak to the most recent bottom, the S&P 500 has fallen more than 20%, marking the first bear market since 2008-09. Now the bear market is here, are you prepared to deal with it?
This most recent drop has given us all a scare. Does the drop have you worried?
Did you prepare for the bear market beforehand?
Preparing for stock market drops prior to experiencing one, helps you digest results when it occurs. It doesn't change the fact that disciplined investing is difficult. And while you'll never be excited about stock market declines, you can be prepared.
On this episode, we clue you in on the tricks for surviving a bear market. You’ll learn what a bear market is, the questions people typically ask when the markets drop, how to prepare for a bear market, and how to recognize a bargain when you see one. The markets are always changing, are you ready for what’s ahead? Listen to this episode to help you weather the storms that bear markets bring.
In long and strong bull markets, overconfidence is plentiful as positive returns inflate our perception of our investing skill-sets. But when the markets drop, we are quick to question our investment strategy. People ask themselves:
We feel the need to act when we see our nest egg evaporating. The biggest question people ask is: what do I need to do to preserve my money? If you feel like you need to sell and go to cash then you could be taking to much risk. Risk tolerance can be thrown out the window when things are going well. It’s when things go south, you learn your true risk tolerance levels. A poor decision in a bear market can often take years or even decades to recover from. Listen to this episode to help you learn how to make the right decisions in a bear market.
A bear market occurs when there’s a drop of 20% in a particular stock market. This differs from a recession which is declared after there are 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Many people think there must be a recession to have a bear market, but not every bear market results in a recession. However, they do tend to work together. There’s about a 50/50 chance of having a bear market coincide with a recession. As painful, as bear markets can feel, they do happen much quicker than bull markets. The average length of your typical bear market is 1.4 years, contrasted with an average bull market at 4.5 years.
Bear markets can be scary to watch and unfortunately, the news channels cover them constantly. People pay more attention to bear markets since they are sensationalized by the news media. The most important thing to remember is to follow your strategy. If you feel like you need to get out immediately and go to cash then you are likely taking too much risk. Unfortunately, we can’t follow our intellect and instinct when it comes to investing. Our instincts influence us to stop the bleeding and sell stocks to hold more cash. The problem with that strategy is big up days occur very close to big down days. So when volatility spikes, your time in the market matters than trying to time the market.
The silver lining of a bear market, is the buying opportunity they create. For many investors that are steadily saving in their investment accounts, bear markets present bargains for higher long-term returns. But how do you know the best time to invest more in stock? How do you ensure that you are not buying too early? Studies show the best strategy is to invest a lump sum upon receiving, as your average long-term returns are higher with stocks vs. other alternatives. Our emotions tell a different story. Catching a falling knife is a risky game. This is where personal circumstances matter most. What does your future income, spending and savings rates look like? When will you need your savings? Answering questions like these gives you a head start on the best choices for your life. Because “knowing” what will happen in the short-term is a fool’s game. Understanding the historical context can help, if it gives you the confidence to begin and stay invested through potential worsening conditions.
Warren Buffet once said, “widespread fear is your friend as an investor because it serves up bargain purchases. Personal fear is your enemy and it will also be unwarranted.”
When it comes to investments, too many people take a haphazard approach when what they need is an investment decision process that makes the most of a number of different available resources. This episode of the podcast is aimed at helping you understand what goes into a good investment decision process and how the team at Financial Symmetry approaches investments for its clients. Chad and Mike discuss market indicators and how they impact a good investing strategy, how consumer sentiment figures in, and why it's important to make use of the technical data available. You're going to get an inside look into the way the Financial Symmetry team helps their clients make the best investment decisions possible.
Too often, individuals make their financial planning decisions based only on what looks attractive in the moment. The fear of missing out is real. But there are many resources and data points available that take historical trends and other factors into consideration in a way that could enable your investment decision process to be much more helpful. One of the points that Chad and Mike make in this episode is that a good investment decision process can help you avoid the big mistakes that will sink your long-term strategy. It's those spontaneous decisions based on what looks hot at the moment that we're talking about, so make sure you listen and learn what you can do to avoid those kinds of pitfalls.
One of the things that should be a part of every investment decision process in consideration of short-term market indicators. What are they? They are the things we can see at the present moment that give us clues as to where the economy might be headed. For example: Are we coming out of or going into a recession? What is the current consumer sentiment about the economy? Are there technical trends and stats that inform us of what may be coming? These are things the average person doesn't take time to look into or consider but are vital components of the investment strategy that the Financial Symmetry team brings to bear on its client's investment decisions. You can hear the unique approach that the team takes, on this episode.
On many of the talk news programs and in some of the high-profile financial publications you hear talk about warning signs that the economy may be about to go down the tubes. Of course, they could be right with their predictions but making decisions based on fear is one of the weakest options for the smart investor. It's easy to sell fear, but it's not always the best way to determine how to invest your hard-earned money. In this episode of the podcast, Mike and Chad discuss why fear is not the best motivator for good financial decisions and how you can take a different approach that enables you to create a long-term strategy that actually works.
Even though this episode is focused on making the best investment decisions possible through a good investment decision process, that process and strategy won't do you much good if the rest of your financial life is a mess. What are those areas? - Do you have enough life insurance? How are you spending compared to the spending plan you've made? Do you have an adequate estate plan in place? Are you being tax-efficient? These are only some of the fundamental questions you need to address before you get too involved in making a long-term investment strategy. If you don't, you can wind up wasting a lot of time with no benefit to show for it.
CHART TO GO INTO SHOW NOTES?
One of the most asked questions we receive centers around the HSA. It's also one of the largest missed opportunities for tax savings we see people are missing, if they are eligible. Health Savings Accounts, known also as HSA, are gaining more and more popularity. But there is still a lot of confusion on how this account is different.
Join us this week, as we break down the ins and outs of all you need to know about how an HSA can benefit you and your family. We address why so many are still not using these accounts to their full capacity. Also, we break down how the HSA provides triple tax savings, or the hat trick as Mike likes to call it.
For more, check out show notes here.