The crazy market swings and slumps of the past 20 years were hard for anyone to stomach. It’s one thing when you are working and earning a paycheck. Time is on your side, and you have the opportunity to buy “discounted” shares of the market. It’s entirely another thing when you are retired and that’s all the money you have to get you through retirement.
The anxiety around this topic is very understandable. When your nest egg needs to last, it’s not easy to watch it lose 10 or 20 percent of its value over a short period of time. When you are taking money out of your retirement and the market is moving against you, a new level of anxiety can set in. The market seems to take years to rise, and only days to fall.
Nature has wired us to be terrible investors. Everything that helps you stay out of danger in life works against you in the stock market. The sense to run when we see a bear in the woods has served us very well. When a bear in the stock market appears, it’s difficult to fight our sense to flee.
That means if we want the best chance of being a successful investor, we have to do everything against our natural tendencies. We essentially have to ignore the bear charging straight for us.
This is why it’s important to build an investment and financial plan for your retirement and to continue to revisit it. This will help in those times when fleeing seems the only option. You will have talked about these in advance, and looked at how your plan is able to withstand these tumultuous.
Our relationship with money is something to be very aware of when building an investment plan. If you came from poverty or have Depression-era parents ingrained into your own habits, you are likely to flee from the market at the worst time. We tend to overlook our appetite for risk. A look at your relationship with money can help build an investment plan that takes this into effect.
Research proves time and again that investors who buy when they feel good and sell when they feel bad tend to underperform investors that stick it out. Usually, that underperformance is by a wide measure of several percentage points a year. You may steer clear of a bad market once, but it’s hard to get it right time and time again. It’s amazing the damage it can do to your performance if you miss a few of the best days in the market.
You may be may asking, why do people go through all this anxiety in the first place? The reality is that few of us can feel confident that we will have enough money to last us during retirement if we stick it in a CD at the bank. There are precious few options to better grow your assets over a long period of time than from investing in stocks. Even if in 2007, just before the financial crisis, you were given the option of holding gold, oil, bonds, cash or real estate for the next 10 or more, stocks would have been the best option.
In a world of abundance, investing in entrepreneurs who solve problems, improve on a process and create value for their customers has shown to be one of the best ways to grow your wealth. When you invest in the S&P 500, you are taking a small percentage ownership in the entrepreneurs who solve our most pressing needs or desires. They then pass that value creation on to you in the form of upward stock prices and increased dividends.
Aaron Pickert, CRPC, is associate adviser at Stewardship Capital in Independence. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.