Last week I was contacted by Sarah Morgan, a writer for SmartMoney.com, who had some questions about the recent volatility and decline in the stock market. Normally, I don’t respond to the press, but her initial question struck me to my core. Ms. Morgan wanted to know if clients were panicking. My clients? Panicking? She obviously did not know me or my investment philosophy. My email response to her was this, “I would take it as a tremendous failure of education and preparation if my clients were panicking now.”
I went on to say that in trying to time the market (which, as I’ve said before, is patently impossible) investors are more likely to hurt themselves by not being invested when the rebound comes. And, as historical data prove, there is always a rebound, because the long-term trend is up.
I admit that I took pride in being able to tell Ms. Morgan that clients of Key Financial Solutions do not panic. Rather, they sit and hold tight and ride out the roller coaster. They’re prepared for short-term fluctuations and declines, simply because they have a long term plan.
Their Investment Policy Statement specifies a well-balanced portfolio that includes a combination of stock mutual funds and bonds (in ratios that we have decided upon, based upon time horizon, risk tolerance, etc.). So, even a 10% decline in the stock market has little effect on my clients. And should a market decline be steep enough to affect a portfolio, rebalancing – selling some (appreciated) bonds and buying some (now, underweight) equities – is appropriate to reestablish the portfolio’s target mix.
That information was enough to spur a half-hour long phone conversation and a follow-up email.
It was gratifying to read the article, After Market Slide, What’s Your Next Move?, and not just because I was quoted. No, I was happy to see that Ms. Morgan got it right. She quoted a number of people who said that long-term investing is the key to success.
Having a well thought out Investment Policy Statement is the best chance I know of to stick with a long-term plan. When markets experience extreme volatility, it sure helps to have a strategy that is based on more than a prediction of what today’s news means to your investment portfolio.
And what are the rewards of long-term investing versus the risk of getting out of the market? Christopher Davis of Davis Advisors gave a presentation at the NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) National Conference. Here is what he reported.
Average Annual Returns for 1995 – 2009 for investing in the S&P 500
|8.0%||for Staying the Course|
|3.2%||if you missed the 10 best days|
|-2.6%||if you missed the 30 best days|
|-9.2%||if you missed the 60 best days|
For a fifteen year period, if you missed the 30 best days, you could have managed to lose 2.6% per year, versus earning 8.0% per year. Thirty days in 15 years!
So let me turn the original question on its head, “Why would anyone risk being out of the stock market?”