June 30, 2017

You Have to let it Simmer

Credit: justingun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the questions I get most often is why investment advisors don’t jump in and out of the market. Most recently I was asked “Why don’t investment advisors drastically change their portfolios when something bad has clearly happened?”

The answer you have probably heard, and maybe even from me, is because frequently trading your portfolio begins to cease looking like investing and begins to resemble gambling. How many people do you know that often come back from Vegas with more money than they left with? You don’t jump in and out of the market because to do so effectively you have to correctly time the market twice; you have to have the insight to know when to sell high when most investors will be pouring in money in a euphoria and you have to have the insight to know when to buy low when most investors will be sprinting for the exits in temporary fear. Even if you do somehow manage to time the market correctly, you’ll be burdened with more transaction fees and taxes as a result of your more frequent trading. That’s why most professional investment advisors don’t jump in and out of the market, and as far as jumping in and out of the market after something bad has clearly happened, professional investment advisors don’t do that because the "bad event" has already occurred and some of the market’s biggest gains often come on the heels of something less than ideal.

After 9/11 did you want to be invested? Think back to 2008-2009 right after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the Great Recession began. Did you really want to be invested? What about in 2011 after the credit rating of the United States was downgraded? Did you want to be invested then? At the time of those events, my answer would have been no. When events like that happen in the future, my answer will be no again, but it has to be yes. You have to stay invested.

Check out the link below to visuals from Putnam Investments. I found these incredible statistics as I was researching and working on my correspondence with the individual who most recently inquired about market timing.


Two of the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s biggest days occurred within eleven months of 9/11! Seven of the Dow’s best days since 2001 occurred between October 2008 and March 2009! One of the Dow Jones’ biggest days in the last 15 years occurred within a week of the unprecedented US credit downgrade! If you had invested $10,000 in the Dow at the beginning of 2002 and stayed invested, you would have had around $28,700 by the end of 2016 and have averaged an investment return of around 7.3% per year. If you had jumped in and out of the market and missed those ten best days I just mentioned that were relatively right after 9/11, the Great Recession, and the US credit downgrade just happened, you would have only had around $14,700 by the end of 2016 and averaged an investment return of around 2.6% per year! If, instead of the ten best days, you missed the twenty best days, you would have only had $9,600. You would have lost money over a fifteen year period due to missing twenty days!

I love to cook. One of my specialties is spaghetti with a homemade meat sauce. It’s ground beef slowly cooked with salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and hamburger seasoning. I carefully dry the cooked meat on some paper towels on top of a plate. The meat then joins my pot of tomato sauce and I add in garlic salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings. I then slowly melt in some parmesan cheese to make the sauce richer and a little thicker. Like my mother taught me, I always taste with a clean spoon, but I keep sampling and throwing in a little more of this and that until it’s just about right. Then I put a lid on the pot and let it simmer. It’s only after simmering with an occasional stirring that all the ingredients truly come together and I end up with my desired result. Long-term investing is similar. Add the proper ingredients, tweak a little as needed to taste, and prudently monitor, but you’ll only get your desired result if you let it simmer.