What to do if the Stock Market Correction turns into a Bear Market?

Dear Mr. Market:

We typically write you letters about your volatile actions and the erratic behavior you bestow upon us as investors. Many of our letters also try to put certain economic events into perspective so that people don’t let your wild stock market swings force them into making bad decisions. All that said, it’s come to our attention that we can finally roll out the answer to a question that is not always obvious:

What should an investor do if a standard stock market correction turns into a bear market? shutterstock_262478570

First off, let’s revisit the basic definition of a correction versus an official bear market. Click here for an article we wrote during the last correction in February, which incidentally at the time felt like the end of the bull market had finally come. Although the market sold off almost -10% in a short span, it clearly came back to reach record highs until October came around.

So…can we now apply the four most dangerous words in investing? Continue reading

Making Financial Decisions After the Loss of a Spouse

Man's Hand Resting On HeadstoneDear Mr. Market:

Our letters to you typically center around the stock market, the economy, and related investment topics. At the end of the day, however, what is wealth (the accumulation, growth, and preservation of it) all really for? That answer is different for everyone but from our experience in meeting with thousands of investors ….it means nothing without family. Losing a loved one is always painful but when it’s your spouse there are also several financial issues that arise and knowing how to navigate is critical.

The following article is written by a guest contributor, Lucille Rosetti (see credits at the end):  Continue reading

Happy (Financial) Independence Day!

Dear Mr. Market:th-21

Apologies in advance for our clickbait headline. We usually aim to talk financial shop in our letters to you…but today is not about the stock market. Today, July 4th, is about independence, freedom, and the greatest nation on earth….the United States of America.

Lately the news headlines have been on an absolute overload of division and finger pointing. Truth be told..we’re absolutely tired and fed up with it. Watching and reading almost all sources of media simply takes its toll on you whether you realize it or not. As it relates to finance it has forced the untrained and emotional investor to make poor decisions. To every person who said I’m 100% out or in the stock market because of [insert political name/party]…you’re part of the problem. Holding this mindset is not using your brain as one may initially think but rather allowing another side of emotion and bias to drive your decision making process.  Continue reading

What is “long-term investing” anyway?

Dear Mr. Market:th-19

Why is the number 15 important for us to share with you today? In our opinion it’s because everyone seems to have a different idea of what “long-term” investing means. The notion that investors should think long-term is fine, and fairly generic advice, but that time frame has never been concretely defined; until now!
My Portfolio Guide defines long-term as being able to invest for at least a 15 year time horizon.
Using our definition even at retirement you could definitely be considered a “long-term investor”. Granted, you may be closer to needing to live on a fixed income or simply not have the stomach for the ups and downs of the stock market, but by our definition you are a long-term investor.
The average person is living longer so if you hung up the work boots at age 65, for example, going out 15 years puts you at age 80. Assuming you need investment funds to last at least to that age it would be wise to have a decent portion allocated towards growth investments. Putting your investments into bonds, CDs, or cash is a losing proposition once you factor in taxes and the silent and ever-growing killer of inflation.
 
168036_600Look…we get it…the stock market can make you lose your lunch. The roller coaster analogies are plentiful and with a 24/7 news cycle it seems like the slightest hiccup can create a bloodbath on Wall Street.  All that being said, the odds of the stock market being positive over time are overwhelmingly in your favor and it’s still the place to be if you want to grow your wealth. Over one-year periods, between 1926 and 1997, Ibbotson found that stock returns were positive in 52 out of 72 years, or roughly three-quarters of the time. Even so there is obvious risk and volatility with the best year having stocks return +54% and in the worst -43%.
 
But now let’s turn to longer periods. Ibbotson looked at five-year rolling cycles over the same era (1926-30, 1927-31, etc.). Out of 68 separate, overlapping periods, stock returns were positive 61 times which works out to be almost 90% of the time! Over 15-year rolling periods (there were 58 of them) stock returns were positive every time.
Since 1926, the stock market – as measured by the S&P 500 with dividends reinvested, has never had a 15-year rolling calendar period with a loss. If that fact doesn’t register…please read it again. Never once in history has the stock market lost money over a 15 year period. The longer your time horizon the more likely it is that you’ll make money in a diversified stock portfolio. 
One of the reasons financial advisors use other instruments in a portfolio outside of stocks is to diversify; that is also a nice way of saying it’s because they know you will likely be an emotional train wreck when volatility enters the arena. If there was a two horse race and we had to bank our entire livelihood on either the Bond horse or the Stock horse…it is without question which we would choose.
Furthermore, imagine if you could only open your investment account statements once every 15 years? Not only would you most likely be a less stressed and more successful investor, but the odds are substantial that you would have positive returns no matter what happened in the world.

What matters beyond wealth…

Dear Mr. Market:Steve-Jobs-Quotes-on-Life

Almost every letter we write to you has to do with educating people about building or protecting wealth. At the end of the day, however, what does it all mean? Real wealth is more than a number, a status, or some level of material achievement.

To date the best articulation of this (in our opinion) comes from the alleged letter that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs wrote from his death bed. We note “alleged” in that sources closest to him recount it differently but none the less, this is an incredibly powerful message. Continue reading