mindset

White-Knuckle Dreams

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With decades in the financial industry, it’s been interesting to work alongside some friends and their families for years. I’ve gotten to witness many of their big milestones—and share mine, too.

Some goals have changed over time. It has happened in many different ways. Births and deaths can shift priorities. Sudden windfalls can open up opportunities and goals that once seemed unthinkable.

One quality connects a lot of the most successful goals: they stay flexible.

Is it cheating to say that a goal that changed is still a win? Well, was the birth or the death or the sudden windfall “cheating”? These questions are sort of beside the point. If life is change, a flexible mindset is the winning one.

It’s easy enough to mistake tension for focus or drive. But tense muscles don’t work as well as pliable ones. A marathon runner who cramps up, a surgeon who forgets to breathe—those are not success stories in the making.

We’ve loved getting to help clients meet those huge, lifelong dreams, of course, but there’s no romance in a dream that swallows you up. You can’t white-knuckle your way to your dreams.

We think it’s possible to set our sights high and roll with things along the way. That’s why we put so much stake in the plans and planning that go into your financial situation.

And it’s why we enjoy the work so much. Giving shape to dreams can be as thrilling as seeing them through—in fact, you can’t get there without it.

Clients, when you’re ready to talk about this or anything else, let us know.

COMPLETELY UNFINISHED

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Maybe the idea of “the finish line” is overrated. You know about my long-time goal of working until I’m age 92, so this sentiment shouldn’t be a shocker.

But we’re thinking about other ways this idea applies. A lot of investment wisdom suggests finding strategies that work with your current life stage. What milestones are coming up? What are you working toward right now? What can you prepare for? Even in this approach, though, life shouldn’t be treated like a checklist.

It’s definitely a journey—and you can’t plan for all the stops along the way. Our approach has to reflect that reality.

Psychologist Carol Dweck studies motivation and mindset. Her take? If things feel fixed or set in stone, look out: that attitude may be a signal that you’ve shut down in the face of change.

We’re not saying that flip-flopping or changing for its own sake is the way to be, but we can’t grow unless we’re willing to change.

“Opening yourself up to growth makes you more yourself, not less,” Dweck explains in her book Mindset. Dweck encourages us to continue to “learn and help learn,” and that’s an idea we can get behind.

You can be a whole person every day you live, but that doesn’t mean your living is ever finished. That’s how we feel about our work, too: a strong financial advisor isn’t a teacher or guide necessarily. An advisor can be a partner on that path. We can map an approach that is complete, robust, and comprehensive—but you better believe that the plan should be able to grow right along with you.

Clients, write or call when you’d like to talk about this, or anything else.

Is a Drop a Loss?

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We humans use stories about events great and small to help understand the world. One of the common stories about the stock market contributes to a great misunderstanding, however.

A market decline from some higher point in the past is often spoken of as a loss. Yet whenever the market is trading at an all-time high, every past downturn has been fully recovered. One might ask where the loss actually is.

To illustrate, the decade of the 1990’s was a good one for the broad stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Stock Index. It more than tripled, rising from 353 points to 1,469. Yet of the 2,527 trading days of the decade, 1,171 saw a decline—a drop—in the market index.1

Those down days represent a cumulative 729% in “losses.”1

In a decade when the market tripled, how does it make sense to speak of losses during the interim? Particularly losses equal to many times the beginning level?

The market is volatile. Values fluctuate. It goes up and down. But if you have long term goals, it might pay to focus on long term results, not temporary downturns. If you invest next week’s grocery money in the stock market, then yes, a temporary downturn will result in a loss when you sell out in order to buy food. Otherwise, we would say a drop is not a loss.

Note: one should never invest next week’s grocery money in the stock market.

Our business is striving for long term results for people who share our time horizon and philosophy of investing. We talk about it every way we know how, in many venues, to reinforce effective investing attitudes and to forewarn those who lack them.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

1Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, S&P Dow Jones Indices. Retrieved September 18th, 2018.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

 

Pain Fades Away

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Some pundits calculate the current run-up in the stock market as the longest bull market in history. It seems many have forgotten how tumultuous and uncertain things have felt at times during the rise.

Before the rise began, a punishing drop in the market (and investment account balances) happened, from mid-2007 to spring 2009.

Then, just a couple years into the recovery, we had one of the most turbulent periods ever. In August 2011, after dropping more than 5% the week before, the Dow Jones Average dropped another 5% on Monday, August 8. This 634-point drop was partially offset by a sharp rebound on Tuesday, a 429-point gain. Wednesday reversed again, with a drop of 519 points. Thursday’s gain of 423 points ended a string of daily moves greater than 400 points, down-up-down-up.1

Since the market was much lower then, an equivalent 4% move today would be about 1,000 Dow points! Imagine that four days in a row. We lived through it.

Why did this happen? Developments developed, happenings happened, and pundits spewed punditry. It would spoil our story to detail the details. As it turns out, they don’t matter.

We’ve been asking people whether they remember this episode. Few do. Thus our conclusion: the pain is temporary.

If you do a little math with our story, you’ll note the Dow dropped more than 10% in six days1. This was alarming to those who were paying close attention. Yet from the longer-term perspective, it probably would have been a mistake to sell at any point in there.

After all, this turmoil happened during the longest bull market in history!

The next round of turmoil is always out there. When we counsel patience, it is with the long term—and a knowledge of history—in mind. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Notes & References

1Standard & Poor’s 500 index, S&P Dow Jones Indices: https://us.spindices.com/indices/equity/sp-500. Accessed September 4th, 2018.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

Optional Thinking

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Readers know we believe there are those financial arrangements that maintain stability and those that may garner long-term investment returns. But anything that promises both stability and high returns is not likely to work out that way.

The uncomfortable truth is, we must live with volatility in order to have a chance at market returns. Short-term market action cannot be reliably forecast, nor profitably traded, in our opinion.

Yet market values can be volatile. Imagine an account of $500,000: a 20% drop would shrink it to $400,000, while a 20% gain would grow it to $600,000. How do people stand it?

First, long-term clients tend to take the long view. If that $500,000 account started as a $200,000 account years ago, the owners remember where they’ve been. That original investment is their anchor: any value above $200,000 represents a gain from that beginning value. (We are talking about the effects of time and compounding, not claiming any unusual investment results.)

Second, the long view helps clients understand that volatility is not risk. Put another way, as we’ve written before, a short-term drop does not necessarily represent a loss. How should we view that $500,000 value dropping to $400,000, in the long view? Relative to the original $200,000, it’s still a gain. Worrying about drops as if they are losses is optional for people who are investing for many years or decades down the road.

Third, even while staying the course over the long haul is important, strategies need to address short-term needs. For those who are living on their capital, knowing where the cash is going to come from is vitally important. With secure cash flow, it is easier to live with the ups and downs in account values. We call this pursuit of opportunity “owning the orchard for the fruit crop.”

This perspective requires a certain confidence that we will stumble through any problems and likely come out of whatever troubles have arisen. Optimism is sound policy, for if we are going back to the Stone Age, it won’t matter what is in your portfolio anyway.

Clients, if you would like to talk about these ideas or any other, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

This is a hypothetical example and is not representative of any specific situation. Your results will vary. The hypothetical rates of return used do not reflect the deduction of fees and charges inherent to investing.