I find it increasingly difficult to resist the temptation to comment on the world stock markets. The media is constantly moving from positions of fear or greed, buy or sell. This serves their purpose of having something to say and of course becomes something that they then have to continue to say for fear of not providing “the news”. Of course panic is contagious and whenever I see it, I tend to think of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army – don’t panic Captain Mainwaring.
So what is happening? The price of oil has fallen dramatically. The Chinese economy is not growing as quickly as it was. There is nervousness about the UK leaving the EU, the possibility of a thug winning the US presidential election, perhaps forcing a showdown with anyone with different opinion. Europe has little idea about what to do with thousands fleeing war in Syria or their own ravaged economies offering few prospects of employment. Our own austerity is causing our public services significant stress and of course there is the recurring fears about viruses, war, the environment and terrorism which all play into the narrative of “its bleak”.
Fear and Greed
Shares are part, ownership of businesses. The value of which is based in part on its actual physical assets (premises, stock etc.) and part on future revenue streams (forward orders, based on data from historic orders). There is also the matter of market share, industry sector and general perception of the company. The price of shares is therefore in part objective maths, part subjective opinion.
The problem with sudden shifts in price are invariably linked to a herd mentality – playing inevitably into two camps – fear or greed.
We know this when we invest. It is not new news, but it is certainly hard to live with, particularly when the noise is very loud and the doom-sayers are everywhere.
Any real changes?
If you have genuinely altered your long-term goals and do not wish to invest ever again, you probably should rethink your entire strategy, perhaps investing is not for you. I am being serious.
However if your long term goals remain roughly the same, then the key question is has anything really changed?
Your portfolio is split across a variety of asset classes, shares, bonds, cash and commodities. There is a global spread. You have a diversified portfolio. We have established tried and tested evidence based analysis to check that you have the right “mix” of holdings to suit your attitude to risk. To date, whilst the markets have been “disappointing” (understatement) since April 2015, the degree of “shock” is within your tolerance, but it is of course deeply unnerving, very unsatisfying and frustrating.
Time in the market not timing the market
However we are holding to the long-term principles of disciplined investing, which have been proven successful over time. This is simply part of the investment experience, albeit “painful”.
It is very tempting to think that getting out of the market now (or 12 months ago) would provide some solidity. However this is based on the notion of being able to time the market and determine opportune points to get in and out of the market (and which market). This is really therefore a double decision, when to sell and then when to buy again.
Historically, investors (professional and private) get this very wrong. Invariably they panic and sell towards or at the bottom of a market, and then decide to invest again once they are confident in the recovery (which has already happened by the time they get back “in”). This leads to further frustration and doing the exact opposite of what we all know investing is about – sell at the top, buy at the bottom. Selling holdings is the only actual way to make a loss real.
Any discussion about your financial plan has involved thinking about an appropriate amount of cash to hold on deposit – your emergency fund. You may have used some of this, you may not. It is there as a buffer, and is designed to mean that you don’t have to take money from investments when they are suffering. Perhaps some adjustments may be prudent, but this is your choice, money should serve you, not the other way around.
I am not pretending that the market turmoil is not scary. This is a normal, understandable reaction to headline news. I know of nobody that likes to lose money. Everyone wants high rewards for low risk. However, unless your circumstances have really changed, if you are at the end of your tether with the concept of “investing”, then stick to the course, taking the life-long perspective.
Pain is part of growth, falls are part of average annual returns, finance is not magic and doesn’t provide any real account of who or what you are.
We remain vigilant, we continue to work in your interests but yes, your funds have reduced in value, but we have no good reason to believe that this will be a permanent status. We do not have a crystal ball and cannot predict the future with certainty, nobody can (despite inferences by others). We are doing our best in an imperfect world. Thankfully, this is 2016 and we are not on rations or at war with the world and whilst not dismissing our troubles (which are very real) perhaps some old school laughter might help.
You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email email@example.com