Here are the headlines that I saw when I googled “stock market” a few years ago during a downturn:
“Is a global recession led by a US Stock Market crash in the offing?”
“Dow slides as US stock market suffers worst week in two years”
“Chart analysts see bigger market pullback if interest rates continue to shoot higher”
These headlines are going to affect everyone differently. Let me share with you how it affects me. Normally, I would pay no attention to it. But now:
I laugh at it.
It’s useless information.
Let me give you a little background on me.
I worked for Fidelity Investments as a stock broker while I was in college before I joined the military. I’m an avid finance nerd and real estate investor.
I’ve studied the markets long enough to know that index funds are the smartest way to invest your money. Trying to beat the market is pointless.
I also know that a lot of what you see in the financial media space is useless information. They try to predict where the market is going. When they get it wrong, they try to explain logically why they got it wrong, which ends up being the perfect definition of hindsight bias.
Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it.
Financial magazines, newsletters, cable programs, videos, it’s all meant to capitalize on either fear or greed. A few weeks ago, it was greed. The markets were kicking ass.
Today it’s fear. The end is near. A crash is imminent. End of the human race. What do we do now? Keep watching the media outlets and they will tell us!
Read my piece on How Lucky are the Richest Guys on Wall Street
Now the real point of me writing this post.
No, You don’t need to sell when the markets dive too much.
Another scary headline from a few years ago:
“Stock market loses nearly $1 trillion on the week”
But that’s not actually true.
You didn’t lose anything. Yet.
You see, the stock market theoretically lost value. But you didn’t lose anything unless you actually sold your stocks or mutual funds at those lower prices.
I don’t care what the daily balance on your iPhone says. That’s a theoretical number. That’s the money you would get if you were to sell everything now.
If some of you need access to your money that’s invested in the market right now, then that’s a different story. I hope you are diversified, and you’ll have to decide whether to sell or not.
But most of you, including me, are investing for the distant future. The drop in stock prices yesterday, last week, and even last month is totally meaningless.
The market fluctuates in the short term for many reasons that the media tries to explain. Whether they are right or not is pointless. It fluctuates in an unpredictable way over short periods of time. I would define short as days, weeks, and even months.
The important thing to remember is that over long periods of time, the stock market has consistently delivered roughly 7-8% on average. This is all you need to worry about. Fretting over the short-term movements and especially the corrections is a waste of time.
That 7-8% average growth includes the corrections and the bear markets.
If you try to “time the market” and get out on the drops and back in on the rises, the statistical chances of success is super-low. That 7-8% historical return will be reduced by quite a lot when you start playing games like that. Additionally, you are liable to have your money on the sidelines when a large jump happens.
When you time the market, you have to be right twice. You have to sell early enough in the drop. Then, you have to guess how low it will go and try to buy back in again when you think it’s at the bottom.
Timing the market doesn’t usually work that well. You’ll find that when you sell, the market shoots back up. You will regret your decision and buy back in, then it will dive 40%. This sucks!
Don’t try. The market is a tricky beast. Our instincts and fear work against us.
Most of us.
The chances of being right twice are very, very low. Trust in the system of riding the corrections out and getting your historic 7-8%.
Don’t mess with the system!
I know these corrections or even bear markets can be emotional hell, watching the headlines is torture, and watching your balance dwindle everyday scares you to death.
Keep in mind, you didn’t sell. Those shares are still there. They are theoretically worth less today, but will be worth much more again in the future.
Know that the stock market always comes back. History has repeated itself several times. It will happen again and again. The media will freak out every time, and a lot of people will sell at the bottom, and buy back in again near the top, and kick themselves!
Understanding something about the psychology of money is important.
Experiencing a loss of money is twice as painful emotionally as experiencing a gain.
Why is this important?
I told you before that the movements of the market over short terms are meaningless. It’s just noise. Hours, days, weeks, and even months are unimportant time frames.
The more frequently you look at your account balances, the more unnecessary anguish you put yourself through.
This is because even if a stock or an index rises over the course of a year, if wit will drop many times over the short term. The less often you look at it, the better. I can go months without checking my investment accounts. I really don’t care. I don’t need them until I’m old!
Neither do you.
When times get tough, remember the following:
- The market always comes back, and continues its relentless march upward
- The account balance you see doesn’t mean anything unless you sell. You still own the shares/stocks.
- Don’t stare at your account balances, it’ll mess with your head
- The media is a joke
And just to mix things up a bit, since I’m a real estate investor…
- Having passive income from real estate is a great diversification strategy
Check out my Long Distance Real Estate Investing Secrets post.
Disagree with me?
Let’s duke it out in the comments.
Rich on Money