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Should I Stick with Stocks?

mattress Last time, we talked about a new trend – people stuffing their mattresses the 21st century way. Baby boomers seem to be the main group behind this trend. They are buying treasury bills and gold coins as safe harbors from the volatile stock market.

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It’s understandable that baby boomers are looking for alternatives because many of them are so close to retirement.

But what if you’re not about to retire … should you stick with stocks?
We’ve heard a lot about how the recent decline in stock prices has wiped out all of the last ten years worth of gains. So it’s a really good question. We decided to do some analysis of our own.

Before we start, allow us to make one disclaimer: We’re going to provide an example to help you understand how the market works. Your decisions about your portfolio should be based on your specific situation. We recommend that you talk with a certified financial advisor to help you with that.

Stocks and Certificates of Deposit

To keep it simple, we looked at just two assets – stocks, represented by the S&P 500 (Source: Yahoo! Finance) and risk-free investments, represented by one-month CDs (Source: Federal Reserve) in FDIC-insured institutions.

There may be better assets to invest in (e.g. a broader stock market index), but we still felt that these represented risky assets and risk-free assets relatively well. We were curious about what has happened in the past, looking at various scenarios, with these two assets. This is a good place to insert a couple of caveats:

  • We are looking at historical numbers. We’re not psychic nor do we possess any other ability to project the future.
  • We used nominal pre-tax rates of return, so inflation and taxes have not been factored in to the returns we’ll discuss.

The last ten years
When we look at the last ten years (going back from December 31, 2008), we see that the stock market underperformed its historical average through almost the entire decade.

The best mix of these two assets for the last ten years would have been no mix at all. Investing 100 percent in CDs provided the best return. Even then, the return was not that great: 3.62% per year by our calculations. The worst return, as you might guess, was being 100 percent invested in stocks over the last ten years. They lost about one percent per year.

What about prior ten-year periods?
One ten-year period isn’t all that instructive. So we went back ten more years (January 1, 1989 to December 31, 1998) and looked at those returns. The highest returns in that period came from a portfolio of 100% stocks, which returned 17.28% annually.

So stocks are one for two. Let’s break the tie and go back another ten years. Can you hear the disco music playing?

A portfolio that was fully invested in stocks delivered the best return in that period (January 1, 1979 to December 31, 1988) as well. They earned a return of 14.36% per year.

Is ten years long enough?
Financial advisors have said for years that stocks perform best over longer periods of time. They used to tell us that we should have at least five years before we needed the money or we shouldn’t invest in stocks. Now we’re hearing more and more that ten years is the magic number.

But here’s the thing … we really shouldn’t even count on that as we’ve learned the last ten years.

How long until you retire?
Let’s think about this … if you’re 40-years old, you might have twenty years before you want to retire. At 30, let’s say you have 30 years. How have the returns looked over that period?

Looking back twenty years, even with the most recent decade, our best bet would have been to be fully invested in stocks. Our return would have been 8.14% annually. It’s ditto for the most recent thirty years. An all-stock portfolio returned 10.21% per annum, about its historical average.

So, our research shows that history shows that you should stick with stocks over the long term. But is there a way to lower your risk without sacrificing returns unjustly?

The price of a higher return
There is a price to pay to get a higher return. That price is more volatility and volatility equals risk. Riskier investments should pay more to compensate you for the risk you’re taking. Stocks are riskier than CDs; therefore, they should pay more.

The price of less risk
We just said that riskier investments generally offer higher returns as compensation for the risk. So why not just invest in CDs and other risk-free assets? Because they may not return enough to get you where you need to go. There is a better answer.

Diversification smoothes it out
When you diversify your assets – investing part of your portfolio in risky assets like stocks and a portion in risk-free assets like CDs, you smooth out the volatility, relative to just investing in stocks, while still getting a higher return than if you invested all your money in just CDs.

Example: A 50/50 Mix

As we discussed earlier, had you just invested in stocks over the last thirty years, you would have made about 10 percent per year on your investment. However, you would have lost about one percent a year in the most recent decade.

What if you can’t stomach losses like that?

Obviously, any money invested in stocks is at risk. However, if we had invested 50 percent in stocks and 50 percent in CDs over the last thirty years:

  • We wouldn’t have lost money over the last decade. In fact, we would have made 1.31% per year.
  • The thirty-year return on our portfolio would have been 8.32% a year. While it’s less than the 10 percent we could have earned by just investing in stocks, it’s not that much less. Looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it?

We want to emphasize again that we’re not saying a 50/50 mix is right for you. Consult your financial planner. We just picked 50/50 to see what would have happened with an even mix of these two assets.

Long on stocks
As you can see from the returns we quoted earlier, the experts are right – stocks are good long term investments. If you need the money ten years from now, you need to be careful. If you’re a 30- or 40-year old funding your retirement, a good basket of stocks as part of a well-diversified portfolio is a great place to stick your money.

Short on dollars
Going back to where we started, more people are investing very conservatively in treasuries right now. The problem is, if you invest too conservatively, you have to make a choice. Will you be short on dollars now or at retirement?

If you choose to fully fund your retirement, it means you’ll have to invest more now to reach your goal, which means you’ll have to sacrifice more now than is probably necessary.

We still don’t know if we’ve hit bottom on the stock market. But here’s what we do know – most market timers get it wrong most of the time. That’s why we won’t try!

If you have time until you need the money, invest in a well-diversified portfolio. You won’t be quite as happy in the good times, but you won’t be nearly as upset during the bad. 

We really appreciate you spending some time with us today. Join us next time when we interview John Jantsch, The Duct Tape Marketer, about how to make customers stick without busting the bank. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00265-111408.mp3

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Smart Investors, Tough Times

investing People who find joy in bad news have to be pretty happy lately. The financial crisis has dominated the news, as we watch Wall Street and Washington scramble.

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We don’t usually do this – in fact, we’ve never done it in the 230 shows we’ve done so far. But this subject is so important and so timely. So we want to share some valuable information that our newsletter subscribers received in their In boxes last Friday.

In the last edition of The Bigg Success Weekly, we discussed “Profiting from Panic”. It was about maintaining the proper mindset in the midst of all this turmoil.

We started with the safety net that exists for depositors, investors, and insureds. Here are some links directly to pages that can answer your questions about banks, brokers, and insurers in a hurry. 

Banks

In general, banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, not all money invested through banks is insured. What would happen if your bank failed? If you have accounts with a failed bank, what should you do? How can you obtain a release of lien, if a failed institution is your lienholder? The following links provide the answers to all of these questions:

What is the FDIC

A Guide to What Is and Is Not Protected by FDIC Insurance

FDIC Bank Find (make sure your institution is FDIC insured)

When a Bank Fails- Facts for Depositors, Creditors, and Borrowers

Is My Account Fully Insured?

Obtaining a Lien Release

Brokers

Accounts with brokerage firms also offer some protection through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). The coverage isn't anything like that offered by the FDIC, but it's still important to know what remedies might be available to you. 

How SIPC Protects You

Insurers

While banks and brokers have federal backing, insurance companies have backing through associations at the state level.

The National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds

If your insurance company fails, you'll want to contact your state's Department of Insurance, since insurance companies are overseen by that department in each state in which they operate. Click here for a directory of each state's office. 

Your State's Department of Insurance or Guaranty Association

Two billionaires, two eras, one mindset

Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world according to Forbes, recently invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, in the midst of all this turmoil. That’s pretty typical of how he’s made his fortune – he says he’s “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

He has also opined, “We want to do business in [a pessimistic] environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces.”
 
From: The Warren Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World’s Greatest Investor, by Robert Hagstrom, Jr. 

Warren Buffett is not alone.

J. Paul Getty was one of the first billionaires and the richest man in the world in his day, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. He said, “I began buying stocks at the depths of the [Great] Depression. Prices were at their lowest, and there weren’t many stock buyers around. Most people with money to invest were unable to see the forest of potential profit for the multitudinous trees of their largely baseless fears.”

He went on to say that he made over 100 times his investment on many of these stocks!

From: How To Be Rich, by J. Paul Getty.

Our best strategy

So we can learn from these two men that we shouldn’t panic, even in turbulent times. Now, you may not want to rush out and buy a bunch of stocks. However, you probably shouldn’t sell out right now either.

These two billionaires made a fortune by going against grain. So keep making those 401(k) contributions. By investing consistently over time – paycheck by paycheck – you’re dollar-cost averaging into the market. In bad times, you’ll buy more shares with the same money than you can in good times – just like the billionaires. 

Above all – diversify, diversify, diversify. Diversification is one of the four key investment principles, according to William Sharpe, a Nobel Prize winning financial economist. Our newsletter subscribers read about these as well as some ideas to simply put them into practice.

Today, more than ever, it’s important for you to take on the role of Chief Investment Officer for you and your family. You can’t count on Wall Street or Washington to do it for you!

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If you would like to get the newsletter we’ve referred to here, just e-mail us: bigginfo@biggsuccess.com, with “Profiting from Panic” in the subject line. We’ll send it to you and sign you up for The Bigg Success Weekly!

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Next time, we’ll discuss why it’s so important to move beyond personal productivity. Until then, here’s to your bigg success! 

 

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