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Mania in the Market and Rising Above the Crowd

buy_sell If you listen to our leaders, be they in business or government, it seems there’s a competition to frame our financial situation in the direst terms. Our media hypes the times so that we stay tuned in. We hear terms like meltdown, nose-dive, crash, collapse, and Great Depression.

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We found a great white paper by Marvin Bolt of Alpha Plus Advisors [PDF]. It’s well worth your time to read the full paper to understand historical mutual fund flows and market performance.

Specifically, he looks specifically at what individual investors did with their money during four recent periods:

Stock market crash

In the first quarter of 1987, individual investors placed a then-record amount into the market as stock prices rose. Of course, in October of that year, the stock market crashed. Individual investors responded by withdrawing record amounts of money as the market hit a low we haven’t seen since.

Gulf War & recession

In the second quarter of 1990, there was a huge inflow of funds as the market hit its high for the period. By the third quarter, investors were pulling money out just as the market hit another low point.

Dot.com bubble and 9/11

At the height of the dot.com bubble, investors poured a new record amount of money into the market in the first quarter of 2000. The S&P 500 hit a high in that same quarter. Things soon changed as the market began falling, reaching a low in the third quarter of 2002, just when individual investors were withdrawing record amounts of money.

Housing bubble & mortgage crisis
The market hit its high in 2007 as investors poured money in again amidst the euphoria. While all the data is not yet in, it appears that in October of this year, a new record amount of money was pulled out of the stock market.

Rising above the crowd
We want to buy low and sell high. History shows that the crowds tend to do the opposite – they buy high and sell low. They invest heavily during the bubble and get out during what we’ll call the crater.

Think about what’s happening right now. Stock prices have been falling. But for every seller, there has to be a buyer! Who’s buying and who’s selling? Morningstar has a great video that’s well worth your time to gain the proper perspective on this crucial point.

To rise above the crowd, you can’t think like the crowd. You have to do the opposite.

So take a deep breath. If you don’t need the money for five to seven years, the odds are heavily in your favor. If you need the money sooner than that, stocks probably aren’t the best investment for that money. Because we’ve relearned just how risky stocks can be in the short-run.

Educate yourself to maintain the proper perspective.
We can’t count on our media or our leaders to do this for us. Knight Kiplinger wrote a fantastic piece explaining all of the differences between today’s situation and the Great Depression. We highly recommend that you read this article to see why he thinks we’re not ready to jump over the cliff.

Market timing is a risky game. Since the crowd tends to get it wrong, perhaps the best way to get it right is to keep investing through the whole cycle. You’ll buy fewer shares when the market is up. You’ll get some great deals when the market is down like it is now. Over time, you’ll end up with a decent return.

Thanks so much for reading our post today. Join us next time as we discuss overcoming guilt about how you choose to spend your time. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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I Need Money! Should I Cut Back on My Retirement Plan Contributions?

graph_barThe phrase “perfect storm” has been used more recently than when the movie was out! Here in the United States, we’re being hit with rising costs, falling home prices, volatile stock prices, the subcrime (oops, make that subprime) mortgage crisis, and talk of a possible recession.

Recently, we discussed why cashing out a 401(k) is one of the worst things to do in response to these tough times.

Today, we want to discuss cutting back on contributions to a retirement plan. Two to three months ago, the word was that people weren’t reducing the investments they make for their golden years.

Even now, the overwhelming majority of people aren’t making any changes. However, there is evidence that more people are considering (or are) cutting back.

It’s certainly understandable – insurance, groceries, gas, taxes all keep going up. Investing less in a 401(k) is a way to put more dollars into a paycheck now.

3 reasons not to cut back on your 401(k)

#1 – Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars – Assume you’ve been contributing $1,000 a year to your 401(k). You stop making contributions so one would think that would mean $1,000 more in your paychecks over the course of the year. But you have to account for taxes – if you’re in the 30% tax bracket, you’ll owe $300 in taxes on this $1,000. So you’ll only net $700 by stopping your contributions.

#2 – Money accumulates tax-deferred
– With your retirement plan, money is compounding on money on top of more money. And since you don’t pay any taxes on it until you take it out, all of your money keeps working for you, rather than paying a part of it every year in taxes (and therefore having less money to accumulate on top of).

#3 – Employer match – Employers match as much as 100%, up to some limit. So say, for example, you contribute 3% of your salary and your employer matches that. It’s like found money … your employer is guaranteeing you a 100% return on your initial investment.

Now granted, this is part of your overall compensation. However, we often look at our tax refunds as found money, when it is just a return of an overpayment. This is truly found money – the employer is giving you money as long as you invest up to the maximum. It’s your choice.

Cutting back could cost you $53,551

Consider a fictional 30-year old woman who has been investing 3% of her $50,000 salary, with her employer matching it 100%. Money is tight, so she decides that she will stop investing for three years. This $125 invested for just three years, and then left alone until she retired (at age 62) would have grown to $53,551, if she earned just 6% on her money.

So if she invested just 3% of her salary for the next 3 years, it would grow to 108% of her salary when she retires.

A small amount of money now makes a huge difference in the long term. So at least try to keep investing as much as your employer matches because you get a huge boost in your portfolio by hitting that target.

Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

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3 Strategies Small Businesses Can Use to Gain an Advantage in Bad Times

A recent study by Intuit, the software giant behind QuickBooks, Quicken, and TurboTax, found that three-fourths of small business owners expect to grow this year, in spite of all the talk about a recession, corporate layoffs, and consumers cutting back.

Now, it’s probably safe to say that small business owners are a relatively optimistic group. Part of their optimism, though, comes from that fact that two-thirds of the people surveyed said they had survived a recession before. They’ve done it by putting their customers first and focusing on their finances.

georgeWhen I first started studying entrepreneurship, my perception was that large companies created the jobs. Our colleges train us to work in bigg business. It’s true that large companies tend to hire a lot of people during boom times, as do small companies. But during tough economic times, large companies cut back. Interestingly, small companies tend to pretty much hold their own.

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marylynn If you’re keeping an eye on the news, you see that a lot of large companies are cutting marketing and even customer service. They’re cutting jobs and even entire departments. They’re streamlining.

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As numerous studies have shown, the net effect of this is that, over the course of the business cycle, almost all new jobs come from small businesses.

Opportunities created by large businesses for small businesses in bad times

As large companies make cuts, astute small businesses can gain an advantage by using any or all of the following three strategies:

#1 – Turn bigg companies into your customers.
They’re reviewing their operations. If what they cut is what you do – it’s your service – market to them! They may still need that service in some capacity … take advantage of it!

#2 – Recruit their talent
A lot of the people they’re laying off are very talented. These are people that you may have never been able to get before. Recruit that talent. Provide them with a nice place to fall.

They may look for something more stable or some place where they feel more of a sense of ownership. Your business could be the answer they’re looking for!

#3 – Go after the large company’s small customers.
With the cuts they’re making, they have few resources to take care of their customers. It’s the old 80/20 rule – they’re likely to super-serve the 20% of their customers that constitute 80% of their sales. Then they may cut back on service for all the rest.

Go after these customers that are facing reduced service. They may be a small account to a large company, but they may be one of your biggest customers!

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I Need Money! Should I Cash Out My Retirement Plan?

frustrationThe financial news seems to be all gloom and doom these days. The reports are that we’re not in a recession, but times are tough for a lot of people.

No matter how tight things get, we still have bills to pay. People are responding to this very intelligently. They’re turning to public transportation, eating out less, seeking cheaper forms of entertainment, and cutting back on unneeded items.

But what do you do if that isn’t enough?

Tapping your retirement plan …

It’s tempting to pull money out of your retirement plan, like a 401(k), especially if you change jobs. In fact, about 40 percent of job changers in their twenties and thirties have done just that, according to a recent report by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

… could cost you $130,000 …

If you’re under 59½, it’s usually not a good idea to cash out your retirement plan. Let’s look at the example that FINRA used:

You’re 30-years old with $20,000 in your 401(k). If you earn just 6% on that money until you retire at 62, you’ll have nearly $130,000 in your account, without making any additional contributions.

… and then some!

Of course, you can start over. But you lose the power of money compounding on top of money on top of more money, all accumulating tax free until you take it out. So it’s like taking at least two steps backward.

But that’s not all. Here are 4 other steps back:

  • You’ll have to pay income taxes out of this money, since it was invested pre-tax.
  • There’s also a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal (unless you’re over 59½)
  • Your employer is required to withhold 20 percent toward income taxes.
  • If you owe money, your creditors can’t touch your 401(k) unless you cash it out.

By the time you get a check, that $20,000 will probably be more like $14,000 net of everything. So cashing out of your retirement plan is a short-term solution with long-term consequences. 

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Recession Progression

Pretend that we could eat as much as you want, of whatever you want, whenever you want, with no consequences. What would a lot of people do?

Probably eat a lot of their favorite foods!

Of course, in the real world, we know that if we do that for any period of time, we’ll have to go on a diet.

That’s what a recession is – the economy going on a diet.

It’s just the business cycle. Things go well. People get over-exuberant. Too much debt. Bad investments. Then a recession gets rid of the excesses. It’s part of the evolutionary process.

So today, we want to discuss how to survive and thrive in a recession.

How to survive a recession

  • Develop a contingency plan.
  • Start by asking yourself, “What if …?”

    What if you get laid off?
    What if you have to work longer hours because other people got laid off?
    What if your time gets cut back?
    What if your benefits get cut?
    What if your business takes a hit?

    You know your situation. Think about the most likely scenarios and develop a plan for them. Then, do what you can now.

    For example, why put off updating your resume until you need it? Do it now! Most people wait until they need it. You’ll be a step ahead.

  • Watch your spending
  • Businesses cut spending to get through a recession. We should take a clue. Try to avoid making long-term commitments. In times of uncertainty, wait until you’re more certain before making major purchases.

  • Don’t panic.
  • Resist the urge to drastically change your retirement plan and other long-term investments. You need to look at the specifics of your situation. However, as a general rule, if you won’t need the money for five or more years, you should probably stay the course. Historically, that’s been the best thing to do.

    If you need the money before that, you may want to deploy another strategy. Check with your financial planner to figure out your best option.

How to thrive in a recession

  • Take advantage of low interest rates.
  • Interest rates tend to go down during a recession. So consider refinancing your mortgage and other debt. Business owners may have prepayment penalties, but it may still make sense. In both cases, you need to analyze your specific situation.

    Let’s assume you refinance. Use what you save each month to build your passive income.

  • Keep investing in yourself
  • Once again, let’s take a clue from businesses. Businesses that thrive, after a recession, are often those that kept on investing, during the recession.

    There are a lot of opportunities once a recession ends. Position yourself to thrive – take a class, attend seminars, and go to conferences. You’ll build skills and make great contacts. One of those contacts may lead to your next bigg opportunity!

  • Look for great deals.
  • Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities may present themselves during a recession. People are often more willing to negotiate. You probably won’t find your great opportunity advertised anywhere.

    So how do you find it? Network, network, network! You’ll most likely be surprised by it, so keep your eyes and ears open. Your accidental discovery will be the result of your active searching!

Our Bigg Quote today is by an unknown author.

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.”

So keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Be ready for detours so you don’t have to come to a screeching halt!

Next time, we’ll look at the question, “Does it pay to blame others to cover your backside?”

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

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