“I just don’t feel like coming out tonight.”
I get that a lot. We all do. We make plans, then someone wants to bail. Sometimes you can talk someone into it, sometimes not.
When someone else is making an objection to something you want to do, it’s easy to see the objection. And to use your powers of persuasion to try and change a mind.
It’s harder on the other side of the equation — and we’ve all been there too. In all facets of life, we have a set way of doing things, or we make changes seemingly on a dime and without reason.
I see this a lot in investing. It’s what I do, after all. I hear from people all the time who want to strike it rich. That’s even though they know that, while the stock market is the best means for anyone to build wealth, it takes a lifetime of work. Then, as soon as something moves against them, they panic, sell out, and swear off the markets.
This is in part why the average investor gets an investment return that pales to the market’s average. It’s also why folks starting out should start with something like a 401(k) plan, where they can buy a market index fund. With employer matching and the tax advantage, it’s actually giving you two advantages compared to making the market average.
Of course, there’s a lot of opportunity to beat the market. But sometimes, in order to get to that profit, you have to sit through some uncomfortable trading days first. I sat on the sidelines as markets imploded in 2008, simply because I couldn’t find a profit opportunity I liked.
In early 2009, the opposite happened. I had more opportunities than money to trade.
Yes, markets are volatile again. But where some see a crisis, I see the Chinese symbol for the word crisis, which combines the terms for “danger” and “opportunity” at the same time.
If you don’t like how the market is trading today, just give it a day or two (or even 20 minutes). But if you want to beat a market dominated by extreme short-term traders — including programmed funds looking to exploit infinitely small price differences in a matter of milliseconds — then your best bet is to develop a long-term strategy and stick to it.
And that’s the rub. That’s where we run up against our biggest nemesis in investing. It isn’t a lack of capital. It isn’t a lack of time. It’s ourselves.
I get it. We’re prone to second-guessing the minute we have a plan and things don’t go to plan. That can lead to problems down the line, given the market’s short-term propensity to be the great humbler of mankind. But we know from the market’s long-term history that the trajectory is upward. We need the courage and discipline to stay invested in tough times. And we need the resources to continue buying at lower prices when the market gives us a gift.
And frankly, when times get tough … we have a hard time rising to the challenge. Today’s market volatility looks bad relative to the past few years. But compared to past market moves, it’s still not quite normal. Even in the heyday of the internet bubble, it was typical for stocks to move up and down 1 percent or more on average each day. I’d expect this growing resurgence in volatility to rise, rather than ebb.
That doesn’t make stocks a bad deal per se. But it does mean that trades should be more strategic. Look for smaller, more rapid gains there. For buying into longer-term trades, volatility is our friend. It’s the difference between chasing stocks at all-time highs or getting stocks at 10-20 percent discounts from those highs. A market selloff is what you make of it.
At the end of the day, I can’t persuade you to set a plan and stick to it. That’s something you have to do for yourself. But strategies like covered call writing can take a lot of the sting out of a market downturn, particularly the shorter-term ones we’ve seen this year.
There are ways to stay invested, continue making money, and set yourself up for long-term success. It mostly means buying shares of great companies on sale, and then sticking with them until they’re no longer great companies, or you have a better investment to make with that money instead.
It isn’t rocket science, but it does require a significant amount of discipline to be successful. And unlike your day job, when you’re managing your money, the buck stops with you. If you can’t persuade yourself to do the right thing when markets go awry (which is frequently), then you need to fire yourself as a money manager.
Whether you put someone capable of doing the job in charge or simply buy a market fund to get a near-market return, you’ll at least be moving in the right direction.
Whatever you do, don’t give in to the fear, no matter how tempting it is. It’s better to buy during fear, and sell out when the market gets inevitably greedy —a s it will again for many companies seemingly down and out today.
Andrew Packer is a Senior Financial Editor with Newsmax Media. He currently writes the Insider Hotline investment advisory, serves as investment director for the Financial Braintrust, and writes the monthly newsletter Crisis Point Investor.
© 2023 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.