Unless you’ve been living under a financial rock, you’ve probably heard about the recent stock market turmoil. You know what I’m talking about. That big unexpected thing that nobody saw coming spooked the market into a freefall. The news is full of gloom and doom. The usual safe-haven assets aren’t behaving as you might expect. Normally level-headed people are freaking about about their investments. And you’re sitting there wondering if the financial world really is finally coming to an end.
Even without naming the crisis, I imagine this situation sounds familiar. In fact, despite the false sense of invincibility that blissfully ignorant investors can easily build up during periods of market growth, this kind of thing happens all the time. Portfolio Charts is dedicated to studying that history beyond the pretty long-term averages. From the meager short-term drawdowns to the wildest pandemonium when stocks are truly off their meds, the data is all here in its raw visual glory.
But contrary to the media personalities that live for selling juicy drama, pious lectures, and petty schadenfreude, my goal isn’t to peddle in fear. I’ve been there and understand your concerns, and I simply want to share the knowledge and philosophy that helped me overcome my own investing insecurities.
So on this day where you may be questioning your own decisions and anxious for what the future holds, allow me to offer a little wisdom learned the hard way. Think of this short list of articles as my bear market survival kit, as they are a small window into the mindset and approach that helped me gain the confidence I needed to make money, sleep well, and live a happy life in any market condition.
Growth is a wonderful thing. We all start somewhere and do the best we can, and over the years people learn, mature, and evolve into something even better. That applies to lots of things like relationships, careers, asset allocations, and even hobbies like this little Portfolio Charts endeavor. So in honor of the 4-year anniversary of the site I’ve decided to launch a new logo and tagline that I think celebrates its growth as a resource and captures its spirit and mission looking forward.
Find a portfolio to love
You see, the pages here may contain a lot of data and visualizations but the design intent goes so much deeper than that. Strip away the methods and focus on the goal, and there’s really one singular mission I have in mind — I want you to be a happy investor! It’s such a simple concept but it’s amazing how difficult it is for so many people to grasp, so let’s forget everything we think we know about investing and start from scratch.
What does it mean to love your portfolio?
Three brothers inherited equal parcels of land from their father. The land was vast and diverse, and the weather was unpredictable. One season bountiful rain would shower one end of the fields and the other would be in drought, while the next season the conditions would sometimes switch entirely. Each brother was eternally grateful for the inheritance, and they sought to make the most of their good fortune.
Whether you prefer jump scares, bloody zombies, or simply a cute dog in a ghost costume, Halloween is all about kicking back and having a little fun with fear. But while watching a good horror flick with a bag of candy may indeed be a good time, the adrenaline may not necessarily wear off so quickly if you’ve been watching the increasing volatility of the markets lately.
Wanna see something really scary?
The new year is here, the Christmas ornaments are packed away, and we can finally get down to the business of making 2018 our best year yet. This is my own busiest time of the year, as updating every asset, calculator, and portfolio on the site with new annual data is no easy task. But while I keep calculating behind the scenes, I believe this is a good time to think big picture while things like New Year’s resolutions are top of mind.
What can you personally resolve to do in 2018 to become a happier and more productive investor?
Not sure how to answer that? Then let me offer a few simple suggestions.
Perhaps the approaching Thanksgiving holiday has made me more sensitive to this type of thing, but in the process of counting my blessings I’ve started to become more cognizant of just how negative investing discussions can quickly become. Turn on the TV or browse the internet, and it seems there is a never ending stream of stories feeding your sense of financial inferiority. The better ones tend to focus on how to avoid stress, fear, and greed which is certainly a good message, although running from negative emotions still is not particularly motivational.
The more I think about it, the more I realize there are surprisingly few people out there describing a vision of a healthy investing mindset to aspire to. That’s a shame, as investing is about so much more than flooring it on a mountain pass while struggling to keep the car on the road. So let’s take a moment to pull over, check out the scenery, and think about the real purpose of our journey.
After years of learning the hard way, I’ve come to appreciate that successful investing requires not only a smart plan but also a positive outlook. In my experience, the transition involved a shift in thinking from one of scarcity where more is always better to one of abundance where the concept of “enough” unlocks entire new areas of personal fulfillment. And the key to that abundance mindset is a simple principle that investors too often take for granted — Thankfulness.
Are you a thankful investor?
As we all recover from a happy Halloween full of way too much candy and possibly a bit too much to drink, I imagine that many of you may not feel so great. Indulgence has its downsides, and once the excitement of the sugar high wears off sometimes all you’re left with is an upset stomach. Whether that discomfort is really bad but you recover quickly or is relatively minor but persists for a long time doesn’t really matter, as both situations are equally undesirable.
There’s a similar problem with investing, and scores of articles have been written on risk tolerance, sleeping well at night, and all sorts of downside mitigation strategies to help reduce that pain in your stomach that you just can’t shake when markets aren’t going your way and your life savings are struggling to stay afloat. I’ve written before about how smart asset allocation can help solve the problem, and I’ve just added a really cool metric to take that analysis one step further. It’s appropriately called the Ulcer Index, and understanding how it works can help you find just the right portfolio for your personal pain tolerance.
Most people intuitively understand that time is a critical component of investing. Whether it’s the time it takes to work and save a portion of every paycheck or the miracle of compound interest that gets better and better as you go, the importance of time is a central part of any detailed investing discussion. But the human brain is sometimes ill-equipped to comprehend things that are far away, and that can lead to some mental over-simplifications that obscure the reality of future uncertainty. For example, let’s talk a bit about a question I see come up pretty often:
Do stocks get less risky the longer you invest?
One of my absolute favorite movies of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s a famous scene where Indiana Jones is confronted by an intimidating swordsman clad in black, and the crowds part in anticipation of an epic fight. How does Indy handle such an ominous threat?
Like so many of my fellow red-blooded Americans, I love football. And it probably will come as no surprise that a numbers person like myself also has a soft spot for that special nerdy subset of football all about stats — fantasy football. The excitement of one of my favorite sports wrapped up in numbers and friendly competition with long-time friends is something that makes football season all the more fun.
If you’re one of the 41 million people who play fantasy sports every year, you know how intoxicating it can be. That’s great when dealing with a fantasy team with perhaps a few dollars and a trophy on the line, but what happens when the same methods for selecting a fantasy team are applied to your life savings? As I prepared for my own fantasy draft I was struck by how the two industries of fantasy football and personal investing cater to human psychology in nearly identical ways, and it made me appreciate the mental traps that can easily lead even highly educated investors to make poor decisions.