The 3rd Quarter was schizophrenic, with most of the unmanaged US and international stock indexes negative, bonds (in general) slightly positive, and with tons of volatility across the board.
Particularly in the past few weeks, every day there seems to be triple digit swings in the Dow, and lots of negative news (ISIS, Ebola, etc.).
Now is the time when we have to remember the big picture and what we as investors are striving towards. It is the time when emotions can be high, but we need to keep a steady hand and focus. Now is when we reaffirm what our goals are and whether information that we’re being given is something to be alarmed about, or the normal course of a market.
I address these “big picture” issues in my video this week.
Hi there. Mike Brady with Generosity Wealth Management, a comprehensive full-service wealth management company headquartered right here in Boulder, Colorado.
Today I want to talk about where we are so far this year, of course including the third quarter of 2014, and also the next quarter where we are presently. Let me expand a little bit into the next 18 months or so, but before I do all of that I want to kind of look at the big picture. For us to examine why it is that we’re even doing this.
I like to think of investing as taking three steps forward, two steps back; or four steps forward, three steps back. There are people who will say – no, no, no; I have this wonderful program that’s really exciting, it’s sexy and it’s very tantalizing to say, but we know that that’s bad. If we look at all the particular investments that are out there they always have some kind of a jagged edge, meaning that they go up and they get some down, and then go up, and get some down. That’s a part of it. It’s part of this stuff that I was talking about – four steps forward, three steps back. The time that there are steps backwards it’s so uncomfortable and if you are so focused on that then you’ll never have the joy of the steps forward. Those steps back might be one quarter, might be one year, might be a couple of years. Historically in just the last 15 years or so, year 2000, 2001, 2002; those were three down years right in a row; 2008 was a very painful down year and 2011 we had a really painful third quarter of that year, but in general it was pretty much just a breakeven year in general. The last four, five, even six years or so, not counting 2008, but since 2008 we’ve had a generally trending up market. That’s not always the case. This is nice that we’ve had these steps forward and relatively few steps backwards. As a matter of fact, it’s so unusual right now that when it happens we start to get concerned. We’re like – Oh my gosh, this is Armageddon. It’s good for us to sit back, relax and say – okay, is this new information?, is this new data relevant enough that it changes my perspective?, that wow, it’s such a headwind that I don’t think I’m going to be able to go forward anymore like I have been able to, or is this just static?, is this just chaos out there that’s normal for the market?
I’m going to jump right to the conclusion and tell you that I think it’s the latter. We have enjoyed a relatively calm situation the last five to six years. Any kind of a disruption of the Dow, 100, 200, 250 or so; that has been happening since the Dow was at 10,000 and 11,000 and 12,000 and 13,000 and now it’s in the 16,000 and 17,000 range and all along the way there were people who were saying – no, it can’t get any higher, well, we’re always at a high, it’s going to go down, etc. That’s not necessarily the case. Why else would we be invested in the market if we didn’t believe that sometime in the future it’s going to be higher than it is today. If we didn’t believe that, than we should just keep our money in a safe, or the mattress, or someplace else where we can have absolutely no principal loss. What we can do as investors is really watch our emotions and be the smart money (I’m going to put my quotes up there), the smart money because emotions cause your average investor, I would even say some of your professional investors to do the wrong things at the wrong time. When we look at money flows in and out of the market you’ll notice that 1999 everyone was so ecstatic. I mean emotions were so very high on the technology and so much money was going in basically at a high. At the end of 2008, the beginning of 2009 as we look at the market that was actually the perfect time to buy, but nobody wanted to buy at those points. Everybody was rushing to the door when really they were selling at the bottom and real people unfortunately buy at the top, which is what we don’t want to do. That’s why it’s good for us to keep a long-term vision of what’s going on and not be too distracted by the day-to-day, I would even say the month and the quarterly numbers and have good managers, good goals, a good plan that takes into consideration macro events and stick to that.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is actually do nothing, or to not overreact. It’s sort of like if you are in a car and you’re on some icy road and you’re trying to get to a certain destination, the wind is blowing you left and right, a real experienced driver is not going to overcorrect one way or the other. Yes, there’s going to be minor corrections. Yes, you are going to be very diligent in how you get to that destination down the road, but you are also going to understand – hey, wait a second, this gust is just happening. It’s going to go away and I believe that by not overreacting I’m actually long-term going to be better for myself.
This is what my 23 years of experience has shown me is that we watch out for some of the kind of sexy things that could be out there. I’ve got to tell you I’ve sometimes been real enticed by a promise of the highest return out there with no volatility. I’ve seen these things and I just don’t believe that they’re right for my clients and particularly at this particular moment in time. A good composition of stock funds, bond funds, cash, a smattering of potentially some non-traded REITs may have a place for a client if it makes sense. Of course, don’t do anything until you either talk with me, or if you’re my client to see if it made sense. This is very, very broad that I’m talking about. I really like some Business Development Companies, BDCs that are out there that can add some extra yields as well. One statistic that I do want to throw out there is just to kind of give an example of the environment that we’re in, is back in 2007, October of 2007, the yield on a bond was such that if you needed $1000 worth of income, how much do you think you would have to invest in order to get that $1000? About $24,000. What about five years later, in 2012, October. To get that same $1000 worth of income, how much money would you have to be invested in? — $3.3 million is the answer. It’s so big because the yield went from 4% all the way down to practically zero, literally almost zero.
When we look at all the various options out there in order to make money. There are bonds out there. There’s real estate. There are stock investments, etc. If you’re looking for a perfect answer, there simply isn’t one. One of the parts of I think adult life is understanding that there are many times imperfect choices. We see this every time we go to the polls for an election. No politician, no party (in my belief, maybe you think differently) is perfect. There’s always something that you disagree with them about. Therefore, we’re picking the best of our options that are available to us. Well, it’s the same way from an investing point of view. You’ve got your bonds. You’ve got your stocks. You’ve got your cash. You’ve got your real estate. You’ve got your alternatives, etc. and each one has pros and cons and it’s determining which one is right for you. The yield that you are getting on bonds, very, very low, but I think it’s part of a portfolio of a diversified portfolio. The yields on CDs and money market are down to practically nothing. As we’re invested in the stock market for the long run, one of the things that comes with that, one of the disadvantages is a little bit more volatility. We don’t have a guarantee of principal, so we’ve got to be smart; we’ve got to be diversified. Although that doesn’t guarantee in a generally trending down market that you won’t experience some losses, but we want to be diversified in order to tamper down some of that volatility.
As I started out the video talking about taking four steps forward and three steps back. Well, if you want to run and take 10 steps forward up, that’s okay. You just take the risk of sometimes taking nine steps backwards. That’s not necessarily what everyone ought to do and I think I want to bring some realism into what our expectations should be.
Warren Buffet, one of the most successful managers out there, over time he had averaged a little over 8% per year. For us to expect in the teens or in the 20s every single year is an unrealistic expectation and you will be disappointed and might cause you to do the wrong thing, which is to try to chase something or someone who is going to promise you something that long-term isn’t going to last. While Warren Buffet was making that 8% return he had time. Just in the last 20, 25 years we had 50% declines to you and so I think that that’s a very uncomfortable situation. I personally don’t want to position myself with client portfolios where we have that kind of volatility and so I think by having a good diversified portfolio with good managers long-term, we can hopefully start to narrow that band of – and unfortunately sometime giving up some of those high-highs to getting some of the low-lows as well. So far this year markets are plus or minus a few percent depending on what stock market index you want to look at. The bond market is positive for this year. I think going out 18 months we will continue to have a good market. When I look at the yield curve, which is still a normal yield curve, which is great, it’s not inverted. I’m going to throw up some graphs up on there as well. When I look at where we are from a quantitative easing that has been easing off and will continue to go down to zero. I’ve been actually surprised we haven’t had more reaction to it. When we look at the fundamentals, the fundamentals are so strong. Huge cash balances which are wonderful from the balance sheets of corporations point of view. I think that the fundamentals have not changed in three or four months. Yes, things are slowing down a little bit. I don’t want to sit here and say that everything is wonderful. I want to make sure that I don’t give the impression of being Pollyannaish and saying everything is perfect and wonderful out there. If you’re looking for a perfect world, if you are ever looking for the perfect storm in a positive direction, you are never going to get it. You are going to be disappointed every single time. Therefore, we have to look it and say on balance is there 51% more good than negative, and if that’s the case then we adjust accordingly, and we say, yeah we’re optimistic for the next quarter and maybe even the next 18 months.
I’m always open to feedback. I’m always open to a different point of view. Please give me a call if you would like.
One thing to watch out for is that we don’t get so negative that we have these scenarios that we’re afraid to move forward and some things that might be volatile that are not certain, but then we put ourselves in such a situation where we want a warm fuzzy blanket and it costs us an awful lot for that. Anything is possible out there. The question is what’s the probability? I really deal with probabilities more than I do even possibilities, and yes there’s always those curves and those black swans, etc. One of the reasons why they call it black swans is they’re so, so very unique and yet they can be devastating, but we can’t live our lives by only focusing on the absolute worst that can happen. We have to prepare ourselves for that, but we also have to live within what’s probably out there.
Mike Brady, Generosity Wealth Management, 303-747-6455. You have a wonderful day. Thanks.