(Note: based on client survey feedback, we are pleased to fulfill your request of providing more economic commentary by adding this new quarterly column.)
The most prevalent question we are hearing is whether or not we are at “the top” of the stock market.
Just as I predicted in late 2007 (ten years ago!) we currently may be experiencing the top of the market, or we could soon face an “epic” downturn.
I had no intentions of predicting the future in 2007, but looking back, it turns out the latter was closer to the truth and we faced an epic downturn.
Although I don’t see any reason to believe we are facing a similar market crisis, events have a way of changing the mood of investors quickly.
The most important thing you should be aware of are the philosophical drivers that are true, regardless of short term market conditions.
These are statements that will be true at market high points and market low points:
- There are variables we control, and others we do not. We can control the level of exposure we take to stocks, bonds, and other investment categories, as well as the level of discipline we employ as we go through market cycles. We cannot reliably predict the movement of stock prices over any given month, year, or any other time period.
- Over history, stock prices have always gone from all-time highs to new all-time highs. Downturns have always been temporary, regardless of the circumstances that surround the downturn. The length of expansions and recessions varies; however, historically one cycle has always followed the other.
- Our level of exposure to stocks is directly related to the time frame we have for needing those investment dollars. For those investors that are relying on their savings for income, there will be areas of diversification within the plan that are designed to experience far less fluctuation than others.
- The longer we hold an investment portfolio, we believe the more likely we are to see the intended results.
- Comparing the total market value of an investment plan from one month to another is not necessarily the best way to determine its results. Evaluating an investment portfolio over full market cycles is far more realistic.
- There is no assurance that there will be a gain in value in any given month, or any given year. Negative individual months or years are not necessarily a reason to change our investment approach.
We have certainly enjoyed an extended period of low volatility and strong market gains over the last twelve months, but be aware: eventually there will be a downturn!
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you when it’s coming, or how long it will last, but I stand by each of the six statements above, and will continue to do so when the downturn arrives.