I REALLY WISH THERE was a topic to discuss today other than the grotesque war being perpetrated against Ukraine. But unfortunately, there isn’t. This situation has prompted numerous questions from investors. Below are the three questions I’ve heard most over the past week.
1. What’s the financial impact of these events? Since Russia invaded Ukraine, global stock markets have bounced around with no discernable pattern (other than the Russian market, which has—not surprisingly—been a disaster).
I WROTE ABOUT the perils of timing the market last Sunday. This week, I’ll address its close cousin: stock-picking.
These days, many people accept that stock-picking isn’t a great idea. Evidence shows that both professional and individual investors fare poorly, on average, when they choose individual stocks. But why exactly is that? How is it that indexes—which are simply lists of stocks—so frequently outpace the results of professional portfolio managers?
There’s more than one answer to this question.
SOMEONE ASKED ME last week about a popular and frequently cited market statistic. It goes like this: The U.S. stock market has historically delivered an average annual return of 10%. But if an investor had missed just the five best days over the past 30 years, that return would have been cut to 8.6%. If the investor had missed the 15 best days, the return would have been reduced even further, to 6.5%. Missing the best 25 days out of that 30-year period would have chopped an investor’s return in half—to just 4.9%.
HARRY MARKOWITZ was a graduate student in economics at the University of Chicago. It was 1954, and he had just finished defending his thesis. Most of the committee accepted his work. But Milton Friedman, an economist with a national reputation and easily the most influential member of the economics faculty, had a problem. While he found no errors in Markowitz’s work, the problem was that it contained no economics. Markowitz’s thesis was about investments and,
I’D LIKE TO START with a seemingly simple question: If you purchased an investment for $19,000 and later sold it for $287,000, would there be a gain or a loss? If you answered that there would be a gain, I’d agree with you. Specifically, it appears the gain would be $268,000. But what if there was no gain and the investment was actually sold at a loss? Could that be the case?
DOES IT MAKE SENSE to heed the advice of experts? This doesn’t seem like a hard question. I certainly listen to my doctor and to many others with specialized expertise. As a society, we all rely on experts—from civil engineers to airline pilots to firefighters—for our health and safety.
At the same time, however, human judgment seems to be riddled with flaws. Consider these examples:
After reading his senior thesis, Michael Lewis’s advisor at Princeton University gave him this advice: Whatever you do,
I DESCRIBED A SET of ideas last year that I called truisms of financial planning. They’re concepts I’ve found helpful in navigating the world of personal finance. Below are seven more.
1. Jeff Bezos is a bad role model. So are Bill Gates, Elon Musk and pretty much every other billionaire. Of course, they’re all great geniuses, so why would I say that? The problem is how they made their money. In each case,
I’LL ACKNOWLEDGE THAT today’s topic isn’t the most upbeat. I want to talk about risk—and, specifically, some of the underappreciated risks related to retirement.
In thinking about risk, the hardest part—in my view—is that it defies a single definition. Because of that, there’s no uniform yardstick for measuring it and thus no single strategy for managing it. As Howard Marks states in his book The Most Important Thing, “Much of risk is subjective,
JUST HOURS INTO the new year, I received an email from a concerned investor. His worry: the state of the market—the S&P 500, in particular. With hundreds of constituent companies, the S&P index has the veneer of broad diversification. But scratch the surface, and it seems to carry more risk than investors might like. The issue: It’s top heavy.
As a group, the top 10 companies in the S&P 500 account for more than 30% of its overall value.
LOOKING BACK OVER the past two years, one word comes to mind: extreme. It’s been a period of extremes in the market and the economy. Many have benefitted, but we’ve also seen excesses that aren’t necessarily healthy—from the rise in NFTs to the craze in SPACs to the boom in day trading. That’s why, as you look ahead to the coming year, the theme I recommend is moderation.
LAST WEEK, I REFERRED to the stock market as a hall of mirrors. That was perhaps too kind. With its erratic and often illogical movements, the market also has elements of a pinball machine, a rollercoaster and maybe a clown car. This has always been the case, but it feels especially true this year. There’s one silver lining, though. The market’s recent behavior highlights many of the behavioral biases we read about in textbooks.
LAST WEDNESDAY, the Federal Reserve’s policymaking committee concluded its quarterly meeting with two big announcements. First, the Fed is going to scale back its monthly purchases of Treasury securities. Because these multi-billion-dollar purchases have helped keep interest rates low, the Fed’s objective here is to let interest rates begin to rise. That was the first announcement.
The second is that the committee expects to raise its benchmark rate by nearly a full percentage point next year.
GOT CHARITABLE giving on your mind? Join the crowd. Many folks donate at this time of year, with their charitable giving driven by the charities themselves.
As solicitations arrive, people decide on a case-by-case basis whether to pull out their checkbooks. But some folks follow a more structured process, and that’s the approach I favor. It includes asking these three questions:
1. How much ideally would you like to give? As a starting point,
THE STOCK MARKET’S recent wrenching price swings offer a valuable investment lesson. Let’s start by reviewing the facts:
On the day after Thanksgiving, the S&P 500 suffered its worst day in months and the Dow had its worst day in more than a year. The proximate cause: news about Omicron, a new coronavirus variant. Overnight, investors seemed to revive their playbook from the early 2020 recession. Airline stocks dropped precipitously. Oil plunged 13%. Meanwhile,
RON LIEBER, in his book The Opposite of Spoiled, describes a 2012 conversation between Chris Rock and Jon Stewart. In an interview on Stewart’s show, they got around to discussing the challenges both faced in raising children who could remain grounded amid wealthy surroundings.
Rock described how his own modest upbringing differed from the comfortable life his children enjoy. “My kids are rich,” he said. “I have nothing in common with them.”