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S2 E2: Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

Staying The Course - Even When It Hurts

In my second episode of Financial Finesse Season 2: What Keeps You Up At Night?, I talk about investing in stocks during periods of uncertainty. And I think we can all agree that things look pretty uncertain right now. The good news is, that doesn’t mean your financial plan needs to suffer. 

If investing in stocks feels scary to you, you’re not alone. Many investors can’t stomach the volatility that comes with investing in the stock market, so they either avoid it altogether or end up selling their stocks when they start to lose value. This presents two problems: first, investing in stocks is necessary for most people to achieve their long-term financial goals; and second, trading in and out of stocks at inopportune times can lead to permanent loss of capital. 

In this episode, I go into some of the technical details of why these two problems occur, but more importantly, I explain why having an investment plan and sticking to it over the long run is the best way to avoid them. I hope you find my message reassuring, and as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss your investment plan in more detail. 

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S2 E2 Transcript: Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

00:01

Hi, I’m Cathy Curtis, welcome to Season Two, Episode Two of the Financial Finesse podcast. In this season, I’m talking about what keeps you up at night. And as investments in the stock market are right up there when it comes to things that people worry about, I’m going to talk today about sticking with your investment plan during periods of uncertainty. And let’s face it, how much more uncertain can things get than they are right now.

There are two key money concepts that I’d like to get across to you today, that will hopefully give you greater peace of mind when it comes to investing. One is that you must invest a good portion of your savings in stocks, in order for it to grow, and last your lifetime. And second, how important it is to have a long-term view when it comes to investing.

Now I’m just going to take a brief moment and explain something, a couple of concepts that you’ll hear me talking about a lot. When I say stocks throughout this podcast, I don’t necessarily mean that you can go out and buy individual stocks, that that’s what you’re going to do. Investing in stocks includes investing in mutual funds or exchange traded funds as well, both passive index funds and actively managed funds. And when I say the market, I’m using the S&P 500 as a proxy for the market. The S&P 500 is a stock index made up of 500 of the largest US companies. It’s as good a proxy as any for the US economy and for the concepts that I am explaining to you today.

All right. So in order to accept these concepts, that you must invest a good portion of your savings in stocks, and how important it is to have a long-term view when you do, you have to understand and embrace the fact that investing in the stock market is risky with the capital or the way you know stocks are risky is by their volatility. Markets go up and down day by day, week by week, month by month. Sometimes they go down a lot. And for a longer period of time that is uncomfortable. But that’s a characteristic of stocks. And it’s what we must endure to get the higher returns that stocks reward us with over longer periods of time.

So just to visualize this contrast, investing in stocks to investing your money in a CD, a CD’s value doesn’t fluctuate, you buy it knowing you’re going to get a certain amount of interest. But currently, you’ll get less than 1% invested in a CD with no upside potential. So for example, if you invested $10,000 in a CD, today, at 1%, in 10 years, you’d have a little over $11,000 in 20 years, you’d have a little over $12,000. Contrast to investing in the stock market, with the average 8% return in 10 years, you’d have over $21,000, and in 20 years, you’d have over $46,000. This is a perfect example of the power of compounding interest, and why the higher return you can get from the stock market compounds exponentially over time.

The greater return on stocks is particularly important when you take into account inflation. Inflation means that your living expenses go up year after year, and they’ll definitely be higher in retirement. If you are earning 1% on a CD and inflation is 2%. It won’t be long before inflation as eroded the spending power of the money in that CD. In contrast, if you can earn a higher return on stocks, it will outpace inflation, and keep your spending power intact for your retirement years when you are no longer earning an income or a salary.

When you pay too much attention to the volatility of the market, it’s really easy to get scared and want to sell out to feel safe. This is a mistake because it is too hard to know when to get back into the market. While you are trying to decide you will most likely, proven by many, many studies, miss out on the very best days and hurt your long-term returns. Many people, maybe even you, got scared out of the market in 2008 in the depths of the global recession, and you may or may not have gotten back in. Yes, it took longer than past recessions for markets to fully recover. But by 2013 you would have been back to where you were and probably better off if you had rebalanced your portfolio when the markets dropped.

04:57

According to Goldman Sachs, the 10-year annualized return between 2009 and 2019 was 15%–higher than the normal and one of the highest 10-year returns since 1880. The typical 10-year return since 1880 is 9%. But again, it wasn’t always smooth sailing in that 10-year 2009 to 2019 period. If you recall, at the end of 2018, there was a scary market crash of about 20%. But that has recovered quickly as well.

Let’s just look at this year as an example, when COVID was spreading quickly to the US in February, investors panicked, and their widespread selling of stocks caused the S&P 500 to go down 34%. Since March 26, however, the index has completely recovered and more.

If you were one of the people that panicked and sold, then watched the market go up, up, up, since then, you’re probably thinking, well, now it’s overvalued, so I’m going to sit out longer. This isn’t the way to run a sound investment plan.

So how do you stick with your investment plan in times of great uncertainty? Well, the first step is to believe in your plan from the start. So let’s take the steps. To make a long-term plan, it’s important to write down the kind of lifestyle you want for the future, along with what expectations you have for the next 30 years. Because that’s really why you invest your money, to make sure that you have it when you need it after you retire. And you no longer are able to earn a salary income, your portfolio becomes your source of income along with social security or if you’re lucky, a pension. So you’re making a plan to get there. And I have to say that most people I know don’t want to reduce their lifestyle in retirement. And investing is one way to ensure that you don’t have to.

Secondly, you’re going to implement the plan, which a big part of this is determining the amount of risk you need to reach your goals and invest accordingly. For most people, this means a majority of their money should be invested in stocks. But whether it’s 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, you need to stay with it and rebalance periodically and ignore the short-term volatility.

Lastly, you need to stick with it. No matter what, stay with your plan. Unless something drastically changes with the United States or global economic systems, history should be a comfort to you.

Now I’m going to talk about why sticking with an investment plan is so important for women in particular. Unfortunately, the statistics show that women are more likely to have a savings shortfall than men in retirement. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that women get paid less than men for the same work, and that women are more likely to be in and out of the workplace because of family care needs. Therefore, they can’t save as much as men over their lifetimes. Until these realities change, in order for women to close the savings gap, they need to have a plan, stay with the plan even in times of great uncertainty, save and invest more than you think you need, and get over the fear of investing.

Thank you for listening. Again. If you’d like to hear more from me, follow me on Twitter: @CathyCurtis, or on Facebook. I have a business page called Women and Money.

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NoBody Knows – And That is Why You Diversify

The Sun Tarot card

the sun tarot– Nobody knew that the yield on the 10 year Treasury would keep going down. – Nobody knew that the price of a barrel of oil would drop by 55%. – Nobody knew the Russian ruble would crash. – Nobody knew that Japan would dip into a technical recession. – Nobody knew that Europe’s tentative recovery would falter and fail. And this week, nobody knew, including Christine LaGarde, the director of the International Monetary Fund, that Switzerland was going to un-peg the Swiss Franc from the Euro. These are just a few of the surprises that happened in the last year that even the most experienced investors didn’t predict. These unexpected events can have either a positive or negative effect on stock and bond markets worldwide. Unexpected events like these are also why most investment professionals, including me, espouse the mantra of diversification. You’ve probably read about diversification in your employee benefits package when signing up for your 401 (k) or from reading investment articles or from your financial advisor. Diversification is what it sounds like – an investment strategy that combines a variety of investments (both U.S. and international, a mix of small and large cap stocks, and a variety of bonds) designed to reduce exposure to risk. However, diversification doesn’t just reduce the downside potential it also reduces the upside potential, in the end, hopefully providing a smoother portfolio trajectory. You might say, what?, why would I want to invest in a strategy that reduces the upside potential? Well, if you knew anyone that bailed out of stocks in 2008 or early 2009 and never reinvested, you will know the answer to that question. A portfolio with 100% invested in the S&P 500 in 2008 lost 37%, and if it had a good dose of large technology stocks even more (the NASDAQ Composite was down 41%). That unfortunate time in stock market history scared off a lot of seasoned and unseasoned investors. If instead, that 2008 portfolio was diversified with a dose of bonds in it, the loss would have been less and the investor, more likely to stay in the market. Which is the point – less volatility is more likely to keep a person invested for the long haul. In 2014, the more diversified your portfolio was, the less closely it would have matched the returns of the S&P 500, which was up 13.69%. The S&P 500 is the index along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, (up 7.52% in 2014) most often quoted in the media. Below are the 2014 returns of various indexes representing the broader asset classes and geographic areas you would find in a diversified portfolio: REITS (Real Estate Stocks)                 28.0% Inter.Term Bonds                                5.97% US Small Cap Stocks                           4.90% Global Stocks (includes US)                4.0% Hi-Yield Bonds                                    2.46% Emerging Markets Stocks                  -1.8% International Stocks                           -4.90% Global Diversified Bonds                   -5.72% Europe Stocks                                     -7.10% Pacific Stocks                                      -7.10% Commodities(includes oil&gas)        -17.01% Russia Stocks                                       -44.9% As you can see, the returns were all over the map, and mostly down. It was not a great year to invest internationally and definitely not in energy stocks. But nobody could predict that going into 2014, in fact, back then it the world looked like it was poised for synchronized global growth. If you were in a diversified portfolio, you had another decent year, maybe nothing to jump up and down on the bed about, but decent. And, the good thing about decent years, even single digit ones, is that they add up over time. ——————– For additional food for thought on this topic, the attached charts illustrate the randomness of asset class and sector return year by year. Please note that the “AA” or Asset Allocator portfolio was created by novelinvestor.com and is for illustration purposes only. asset class returns s&P 500 sector returns

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