Category : investing behavior

Should I flip out market correction

401ks aren’t life or death. BUT they can feel like it. So go with me here for a second…

Imagine…the day has come to an end, you’re exhausted and ready to flop on to the couch for what is left of the evening. You flip on the TV and are instantly bombarded with reporters talking about how the stock market plummeted that day with images of stereotypical floor traders hysterically yelling “sell, sell, SELL out of the market”. Market corrections are happening. Naturally, you frantically grab your computer and log into your 401(k) account to see for yourself and you notice your account balance is down 5% for the day. How are you feeling about that?

Odds are you feel panicked and worried that your retirement is in jeopardy. You aren’t alone in having this feeling. Seeing a big loss on your statements can be nerve-racking. The thing to remember, however, is that a loss on paper is just as arbitrary as thinking you can never drive your car again once your gas tank reaches empty. It’s not the end of the world and if you don’t sell everything in a panic your investments will be back to normal in a matter of time, it just may take some patience.

There are a few important facts about market corrections that you should always keep in mind:

  1. Market corrections are inevitable. No matter how much of a market-timing wizard you believe that you are they can’t be avoided. What goes up must come down, and vice-versa with stock markets.
  2. Since 1928 there have been 26 market corrections, where the market dropped between 10-20%. The average length of each correction is 136 days. While that sounds like a long time it is actually quite brief compared to bull markets where markets grow for 464 days on average with gains of 55.86%. While some market corrections may be far worse than others and may take longer to recover the markets always recover and then some.
  3. Market corrections are beneficial to investors in the long term. If you continue to invest through a market correction you will bring down your average price-per-share getting you a higher number of shares for the same price. (See: What investing and ice cream have in common). This could lead to greater upside potential once markets begin to recover.
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This is your brain. This is your brain on investing.

That, folks, is a human brain and in it resides why most of us struggle with investing. See that red section? That is the amygdala. It works the same for everyone – it is not influenced by a college degree, yoga or IQ. And most importantly, it does not discriminate.

So what does it do? It controls the emotions of freeze, fight or flight. This area of our brain gives us a fantastic biological advantage; it’s kept the human species going and going (e.g., fire hurts, bears will eat you, and steer clear of beehives). You get the point.

However, when it comes to investing…the amygdala is your worst nightmare. Why? Because you can’t just turn it off. The very thing that keeps us alive in the face of danger also triggers when other scary moments arrive at our doorstep. Oh, say…investing…or more so, when investments drop in value.

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The “F” Word in the Financial Industry

What is this whole fiduciary thing and why is it important?
Overhear the word “fiduciary” from across the room and you might think someone’s throwing around off-color insults. The Urban Dictionary definition isn’t exactly a term of endearment, but the real meaning with regard to your finances is pretty simple: A fiduciary is someone that is working for YOU and puts YOUR best interests ahead of their own (or their firm’s), at all times.

Believe it or not, this is not a requirement for the vast majority of the big brand name institutions in the financial services industry. Nearly anyone can call themselves a financial advisor in some form or another, but that doesn’t mean the “advice” they are providing is anything but conflicted. And what does this mean to you? It means money in the form of fees going into your advisor’s pocket instead of your portfolio.

You may have heard about the latest update to the fiduciary rule, released last week by the Department of Labor (“DOL”). It’s been anticipated for quite some time now and has had most of the industry pretty freaked out that they may have to change their entire business to start acting in their clients’ best interests. For Registered Investment Advisor firms like blooom, which always has been and always will be a fiduciary, a stricter standard on the industry as a whole was something we were pretty excited about. After all, one of the reasons our founders created blooom was to disrupt the industry and shine a light on the largely ignored segment of our population that truly needs non-conflicted advice from someone they can actually trust.

Good or bad, the end result of the new DOL rule thus far has left the non-fiduciary side of the industry breathing a huge sigh of relief, and even popping champagne I would imagine, since the rule is not nearly as strict and comprehensive as originally intended. But regardless of the impact the new 1,000+ page rule (yawn) will or won’t have on the industry and you personally, the good news is that all of this shines a bright light on a pretty important problem and a question that every investor must ask before trusting any professional with their hard earned money – How do I know my advisor is truly looking out for me and my family?

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3 Lessons Your Ruined March Madness Bracket Can Teach You About Investing

And so it begins…the one month of the year where a single college basketball tournament costs employers a collective $1.2 Billion for every hour of lost productivity. And it’s fantastic!

At blooom, we’re big believers that we can find investing lessons in nearly every aspect of our lives, which brings me to my point in writing this. Regardless of what your tournament bracket looks like right now, as the surviving teams march on toward the Final Four, there are several lessons on investing that we can take away from all the madness.

1. Analysts are as Clueless as Everyone Else

No one can possibly have enough time to watch every regular season college basketball game. Unless they get paid to. Expert forecasts are a trusted source for anyone filling out a bracket. But if the pros are always getting it wrong, how can the casual fan have any hope? That’s the point.

The financial media has made millions on the ancient art of fortune telling. No matter how many times they get it wrong, market analysts have made careers out of making random predictions that are usually very wrong. It seems like it takes just one correct guess to achieve the prestigious “guru” title on CNBC. A great example of this is the rise of Marc Faber, aka “Dr. Doom”. He’s a regular on CNBC that is best known for his ability to accurately forecast major market downturns. However, the funny thing is that he has been wrong far more often than he’s been right. If you repeat the same gloomy predictions over and over again, of course you’re going to get it right and cash in big at some point. Does that make him a prophet? No. It makes him a great salesman. 

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Performing Surgery on Yourself

Many hundreds of years ago it was quickly determined that performing surgery on yourself wasn’t the most practical idea. (Remember as a kid when you tried to rub your belly with one hand while patting your head with the other? Now imagine doing that with a razor sharp surgical stone in one hand.) As a result the profession of Doctor was invented. At first, they might have been referred to as the village medicine man, but I think you get the picture.

It has been 40 years since the 401k was introduced and we are still asking retirement savers to effectively “operate on themselves” when it comes to managing their 401k balances. So far, most self-help solutions focus on providing more and more retirement planning tools, calculators and general education. This is like believing that if we can just produce a better manual or surgical scalpel, then finally people will be able to perform their own open-heart surgeries.

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