Following on from revealing my top 10 most widely viewed Quora answers, this article will speak about those in places 11-20.
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This answer will save you a lot of hassles and especially worry.
The last 19 months (2019+2020) should have taught people once and for all, that to quote Buffett, “stock market forecasters exist to make fortune tellers look good”.
Let’s have a rundown:
- January 1, 2019. The stock market had its worst result since 2019, down about -6%. Its first negative year for a while but more importantly, it started the year well. It fell by 20%-25% in December 2018–2019. There was a panic then that few people remember. People weren’t expecting much from stocks for the rest of 2019.
- December 31, 2019 – the stock market in the US went up close to 30%. Less than 1% of forecasters thought that would happen
- February 2020 – The Dow, S&P500, Nasdaq and some other markets hit records despite the virus getting worse and worse in China and Korea.
- March 2020 – stock market panic due to lockdown more than the virus perhaps! Again few say lockdown coming! Stocks fell about 35%-40%. That isn’t unprecedented but the speed of the falls was faster than ever before.
- April 30, 2020 – stocks have had a great month, clawing back large chunks of the falls. Some US Markets are now just 15%-20% away from their records, and still higher than they were in 2019. Countries that are coming out of the virus better and had no lockdowns (South Korea and Taiwan as two examples) are seeing worse stock market performance than the US and some European stock markets. This is despite the fact that these areas are mainly under lockdown, with worsening death rates. So we can’t read too much into this, and “trade upon news of the virus”.
The point is, I don’t know one person, even one, that predicted all of these 5 things.
I don’t even know a person that predicted 3 out of 5 correctly.
If we go back further to how shocked most people were when markets went up strongly after Trump’s election, and we see the same pattern.
That pattern is many people get 1 prediction right. Plenty get 2 right.
Some even have a 50% strike rate at best. I am yet to meet even one person that can outsmart the market for a very long period of time.
So what can the average investor do?
Stay calm. Buy and hold + rebalance. Be excited by any market falls but don’t wait for them by having loads of cash.
Listen to sensible advice and not the news media. Be ultra long-term. If you do all of those things you will be fine.
It isn’t like there is much of an alternative with cash paying even less than before and markets have always rewarded people who are patient.
$10,000 in the S&P500 in 1945 would be worth about $50m today. $10,000 in 1990 would be worth about $120,000 today. Even adjusted for inflation these are huge figures.
People get into trouble when they try to outsmart the market and be too smart for their own good.
And as an aside, there is no clear correlation between GDP growth and stock market performance.
In 2018, the US reported its best GDP figures for a year, but the stock market’s performance was worse than in 2017 and 2020.
Likewise, China had good GDP growth from 2006, but awful stock market performance.
Often in the short-term, the market is driven by sentiment and speculators – speculators speculating on what other speculators are doing and saying to quote Vanguard’s Founder Jack Bogle.
The long-term investor needs to see through the noise. Invest today for the long-term and you will be fine.
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- Firstly, I would get it away from a purely pound based portfolio, for obvious reasons
- I wouldn’t keep it in the bank, as I would be losing money to inflation
- I would focus on a low-cost, international, portfolio
In terms of number 3, if I actually lived in the UK, I would have maybe 35% in the UK FTSE, 55% in various international indexes, and 10% in bond indexes.
As I am a UK citizen living overseas, I have 10% or so in the FTSE, as I more clear about my wealth in USD, as an expat.
It also depends on your age. If you are older, meaning within 10 years or so of retirement, 10% in bonds should be raised to 25%+.
Whatever you do, the important things are:
- Being long-term
- Never timing the markets
- Not caring about the news, Brexit and so on
- Not caring about short-term declines and rises in the market. That brings me back to number 1, and just be long-term
- Rebalancing once a year, or just buying and holding and forgetting
- Adding to your portfolio, as you get fresh money
I would also focus on the objective. Is it retirement, or another objective.
Once you know why you are investing, it makes it easier to stick to a plan.
I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that things take time and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
We were taught as kids that the hare could lose to the tortoise right?
There are no quick steps unless:
- You can sell your home and business, and invest the surplus well, to reach it
- You marry a rich person
- You get a lot of money from inheritance and don’t waste it
- Your rich friend gives you a lot of money
- Doing something illegal which is never recommended!
- Getting incredibly lucky from something like the lottery and investing the surplus well
However, the good news is that most of the world’s millionaires are self-made and not high-income as this book shows:
Anybody can get rich investing and become financially independent. You just need to:
- Live below your means
- Focus on your income, expenditure and investment habits. Create a surplus of at least $500 a month.
- Perfect your craft and then start your own business if it makes sense, not the other way around, which is trying to start a business without experience
- Migrating for lower living costs if needed
The truth is, moreover, you will need patience even after you have enough passive income to retire early.
If somebody isn’t patient, they will overspend in retirement. That is one reason why most inherited wealthy people seem to lose the money.
Those that gradually achieve something, tend to not lose it, so easily, as if it was handed to them easily or quickly.
Best to focus on two things; living below your means and investing on the side for long-term growth.
This will save you a hell of a lot of money but more importantly worry, time and effort.
In other words, it will be good for your mental health as well as your wallet.
Do a simple thing. Press this button on your TV more often:
The off button. That is regardless of whether markets are up, or down.
I have noticed a clear correlation. Those that spend more time consuming social and traditional media, are more likely to panic during market falls, than those that don’t.
Now what does the academic evidence, tell us about markets? It shows very clearly that:
- Nobody can know when markets will rise or fall. The last few years and years should have taught you that already. US markets up by about 30% last year. Some markets, like the Nasdaq, hit record highs barley 1–2 weeks ago. Now big falls.
- Nobody can time markets or predict them.
- Bonds rise when markets are falling (like now). Government bonds are up about 4%-5% in the last month.
- During such periods, the best thing to do is buy, hold and rebalance. So let’s say you have 100k in your portfolio. 70k in stock markets and 30k in bonds (70%-30%). Now let’s say your stocks are worth 80k and your bonds 32k. Your bonds are now worth much more than 30% of your portfolio. So not only can you add more money, but you can rebalance from the bonds towards stocks.
- Likewise, when markets are doing much better than bonds, as they usually do, like last year, you can rebalance from stocks to bonds. So giving the example of 100k again, let’s say you had 70k in markets on January 1, 2019, and 30k in bonds. On January 31, 2019, your 70k could have been worth 90k, with bonds worth about 30k. So in this situation, it makes sense to sell markets and buy bonds.
- Being ultra long-term, in addition to a buy and hold and rebalance strategy, lowers risks as below:
The biggest reason for the results below is that many DIY investors panic sell during the bad times (2000 and 2008–2009 huge market falls) and buy during the good times:
According to the founder of Vanguard, Jack Bogle, net inflows to Vanguard index funds were highest during 1999, at the height of a huge bull market.
Net outflows were highest during 2008–2009…..so many people are buying high and selling low.
Avoid that by buying every month and having a buy, hold and rebalance strategy for the long-term.
You will have great years (like last year), good years, average years, bad years and the odd awful year like 2008.
Overall though, you will do fine.
This chateau in France was bought for $300 million:
The same buyer spent $450m on this painting:
Who was the buyer? It was this man…..with a whole country’s wealth behind him:
Dictators and absolute monarchs might be able to spend and spend, and remain wealthy.
99.9999999% of wealthy people, however, aren’t in the same position.
Many people wonder “how could 60% of former basketball players go bust within just 5 years of retirement?”.
Or “how it is possible for somebody that has earned $100m to go into debt”?
Well, if you earn $100m, that is maybe $50m after tax. If you have no self-control, you could wipe yourself out and go into debt.
Look at somebody like Michael Jackson who was broke for years before he died, mired in debt.
With the exception of some corrupt rulers and second generation rich, wealthier people tend to be careful about how they spend money.
In particular, if you ever have your own business, you “know the value of money” because the extra $1,000 to upgrade your flight, could be used to facilitate business growth or 5x your money from investing.
Stayed tuned for the third and final part!