SINCE THE START of the year, the stock market has dropped almost 24%. That’s significant, but it pales next to the losses suffered by cryptocurrency investors, with the shellacking continuing into this weekend.
Dogecoin is down more than 90%, and smaller currencies like terra have lost essentially all their value. Even bitcoin and ethereum, which are much more established, have suffered big losses. Ethereum is down around 75% year-to-date, and bitcoin has fallen some 60%.
ROBERT SHILLER, in his book Narrative Economics, argues that stories can be a powerful force in moving markets—more so even than facts or data. Recently, I gained a better understanding of why that’s the case.
I was speaking with a fellow and, it seemed, we disagreed on nearly every topic. But the way he presented his arguments made them sound surprisingly persuasive. What I realized is that, in the world of finance,
THE INVESTMENT consulting firm Callan publishes its periodic table of investment returns each year. It shows the results of key asset classes on a year-by-year basis. Each asset class is color-coded and ranked from best to worst. This makes it easy to see not just annual performance, but also relative results.
The periodic table is valuable because it illustrates that there’s rarely a consistent pattern to relative returns from one year to the next.
A FEW WEEKS BACK, I discussed the notion of “the four horsemen of the investor apocalypse.” A concept proposed by Morningstar Managing Director Don Phillips, these are the factors that—in his experience—tend to lead investors off course. But what about success? What are the factors that contribute to success for investors?
“Investing,” says legendary investor Warren Buffett, “is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with a 130 IQ… You need to be smart,
IF YOU’VE TRIED TO buy a car or a home recently—or have even just been to the grocery store—I’m sure you’re aware how much prices have jumped over the past year. John Taylor certainly has an opinion on the topic.
Taylor is an economics professor at Stanford University. While not a household name, he’s a leader in economic circles. Before Jerome Powell was appointed Federal Reserve chair in 2018, Taylor was a candidate for that spot.
DON PHILLIPS is a former CEO of the research firm Morningstar. In a recent commentary, Phillips discussed what he called the “four horsemen of the investor apocalypse.” I hasten to add that Phillips isn’t predicting any kind of apocalypse. Rather, he wanted to highlight factors that can cause problems for investors. Phillips’s four horsemen are complexity, concentration, leverage and illiquidity. It’s worth taking a closer look at each, especially amid today’s rocky financial markets.
A FRUSTRATING reality: Uncertainty is always a factor in personal finance. Still, some aspects are somewhat predictable. Among them is the connection between interest rates and other parts of the economy. Consider four key relationships:
1. Interest rates and inflation. Inflation has been the financial topic of the year. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates twice so far in 2022, including a larger-than-average increase last week, as it tries to rein in rising prices.
IN A NOTE TO CLIENTS last week, Deutsche Bank analysts wrote that they expect a “major recession.” What should you make of ominous predictions like this?
First, don’t panic. Yes, Deutsche Bank is a big institution. But it’s worth noting that last week two equally prominent institutions also weighed in—with a different point of view. Goldman Sachs argued that a recession is “not inevitable.” UBS wrote that, “We do not expect a recession.” They can’t all be right.
WHEN IT COMES to estate planning, folks with taxable estates—that is, with assets in excess of $12 million—tend to fall into one of two camps. The first recognize that their estates will have to hand the IRS 40 cents out of every dollar above that $12 million threshold. They also know that this limit is scheduled to be cut in half in 2026 and could be even lower in the future. As a result,
MANY FINANCIAL questions have clear answers. Does it make sense to engage in day trading? Probably not. Should you invest everything in bitcoin? I wouldn’t recommend it. Is it smart to carry a big credit card balance? It’s hard to think of a good reason.
Many other financial questions, though, might seem to have clear answers. But upon closer examination, they actually fall into the “it depends” category. Below are six such questions:
AS I NOTED LAST WEEK, investing can be maddening. But it isn’t just investing. Many other personal-finance questions can also drive us crazy. Why is that?
One reason: The stakes are often high, so mistakes can be costly. A second reason: By definition, all data are historical, but all decisions are about the future. To the extent that the future doesn’t look like the past, we have a problem.
Those two factors are very real.
INVESTING CAN BE maddening. Stocks that look like they’re going up can end up falling, while investments that look like they’re headed for the dustbin can suddenly bounce back. This leaves investors in a difficult position—because the right thing to do often feels wrong.
Investing requires us, quite often, to act contrary to our own intuition. Here are four examples.
1. Don’t equate price with quality. When consumers walk into a retail store,
AS YOU MIGHT GUESS, my favorite Seinfeld episode is “The Stock Tip.” It starts with a conversation between George and Jerry.
“My friend Simons knows this guy Wilkenson,” George says. “He made a fortune in the stock market. Now he’s got this new thing.” George goes on to explain that Wilkenson has millions invested in a company called Centrax.
He urges Jerry to invest along with him, though the details are thin.
ARISTOTLE WROTE THAT, “It is a part of probability that many improbable things will happen.” Investors certainly understand this. For better or worse, we know that the market has frequent ups and downs. On average, the S&P 500 has dropped 10% or more approximately every 18 months, and it’s dropped more than 20% about every four years.
Unfortunately for investors, another fundamental truism also applies: We dislike losses disproportionately more than we like gains.
“MARGIN OF SAFETY” is a concept with deep roots in finance, going back at least as far as Benjamin Graham’s Security Analysis, first published in 1934. The idea: Investors should never be too confident in any analysis and should leave the door open to the possibility that their analysis might be right but not precisely right.
Suppose you’re interested in buying Microsoft stock. And suppose that, after analyzing it,