by Ron Bare
In February of this year, I spent a week in Florida with my family as well as with some of our team from the office. Visiting colleges with our daughter, going to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, enjoying the beach, and attending the annual “Kingdom Advisor Conference” all seem like a distant memory. It is hard to believe that this was only three months ago! While we had heard a few “rumblings” of a new virus during our travels, we saw no masks or any cause for concern, even when boarding our plane on February 23rd.
The equity markets at the time were reaching new highs. The US economy was very strong, with record low unemployment and solid GDP growth rates. Although some were saying markets were beginning to look overvalued, the bottom line was that companies were profitable and were predicting even greater profits throughout 2020.
Then Covid-19 arrived and with it, full-blown panic. The market dropped 34% in 33 days, a record decline. I discussed this in our video blog in late March (which you can find on our website.) Now, two months later, the dust has begun to settle and although the panic has subsided there is still uncertainty about where we go from here. The markets have since recovered much of their decline, however, a large amount of skepticism remains. With this in mind I thought it may be wise to pass on a few thoughts relating to investing success over time:
- When stock prices are going down, the enduring value of the underlying companies is going up. The lower prices go, the more value is to be had at those prices. You understand this in almost every other area of your economic life (we all love to purchase something on sale!) It is essential to apply this same principle to the stocks of American companies we invest in – or you may never become a successful investor.
- Staying fully invested during market declines is the only sure way to capture the entirety of the markets long term advance. It is not possible to consistently sell out of falling markets and buy back later at the “right” time. Most of the market driven news is geared toward market traders, NOT long-term goal and plan driven investors. To the latter, market fluctuations are just part of the process to be rewarded for the long term returns of some of the greatest companies of America and around the world.
- You should never try to make long-term investment strategies out of short to intermediate-term disruptions. We always advise to make investment decisions based on our values and financial plan, not short-term events or emotions. The past few months are a good example. Let’s assume you ignored the market downward collapse of 33 days in late February and March and woke up today, May 15th, and took a look at the markets. Yes, they are down 15-16% from earlier highs, but that is in the range of a typical market correction that happens about once every 12-18 months.
There is the ongoing chance that the markets will continue to drop back due to the uncertainty we still are facing with the Covid-19 virus and economic wake it will leave. If you adhere to the ideas presented above, then these fluctuations should not impact your long-term goal and plan driven investment strategy. Perhaps when we focus on the long term, we not only will make much better investment decisions in the short term, but we also will rest better as we wait for time to pass.