Keep Calm and Invest On
Remember when “breaking news” was actually worthy of the term? It’s thrown around so much by networks these days, it feels like everything leading off the news is cause for mass hysteria. Maybe there’s an asteroid heading right for us, or maybe the Sun is supposed to randomly burn out in the next few months.
If that’s the case, your investments aren’t going to do you any good anyway. But in the far-off chance that those things DON’T happen any time soon, it might be good for us to cover something EVERY long-term investor must understand. Just like any set of stairs you encounter, markets go up AND down. It happens ALL the time … so often that at some point investors saving for retirement owe it to themselves to stop paying so much attention to [insert major news network].
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen something similar to these following headlines over the years:
“Expert: Crash is Coming, Time to Sell”
“2008 All Over Again?: Analysts Think So”
“Dow Sheds 300: Pros Say Get Out!”
And the very next day…
“Dow Rebounds 350 Points: Bull Market Marches On”
“Analysts: This Year Could Be the Best Year in Decades for Stocks”
“Risk On: Never a Better Time to Buy!”
You get the point. In a world where we now have a 24-hour news cycle, the very existence of any news outlet is highly dependent upon one thing: RATINGS. There is simply nothing better for ratings than fear and panic, which is why those first three headlines will catch more attention than the last three. It’s why negative news will always net more ratings.
Why is this? Well, unfortunately negative events have a greater impact on our psychology than neutral or positive events. This is often referred to as negativity bias and it’s just another annoying and unavoidable part of our human nature. It’s why we tend to pay more attention to a celebrity’s life spiraling out of control than the daily acts of heroism displayed by any of our local fire departments. In the world of finance, it’s why we’re inclined to tune in on the down days and ignore the up days. The media knows this. They thrive on it. It’s also the reason that very simple facts that would likely relieve that fear for the average long-term investor are often left out of the story.
For example, how about the fact that, according to data from the Capital Group, in the last 115 years we’ve seen a decline in stocks of 10% or more on average once every single year? Or the fact that in that same span, we’ve averaged three declines of 5% or more every single year? What about the most comforting fact of all – that there has NEVER been a single time in U.S. history where the stock market has dropped and not recovered. Does that guarantee it will never happen? Absolutely not, but we would have far bigger concerns than our 401k accounts if we saw the first ever permanent crash. When the stock market is falling, viewers are more likely to stay tuned (can you say RATINGS BONANZA?) Do they usually balance it out with historical context and comforting facts? Not so much.
No one knows for sure what the rest of 2018 will bring to investing. Financial news will continue to keep us informed and sometimes on edge, but its role has little to do with the average investor saving for a far-off goal like retirement. Unless you’re a professional trader trying to interpret market data every second of your day, any news related to the day-to-day movements in the stock market should be irrelevant to you. Investing for your retirement is about retirement. If anything, most investors should embrace the volatility, since the market is really just going on sale. It’s not about today, tomorrow, or even five years from now. And if you ARE that close to retirement, you shouldn’t be heavily invested in stocks anyway.
So relax. Be patient. Chill. Sure, it’s a challenge to any investor, but it may also be what ultimately saves you from making enemies with future you.