One recent morning, I was lucky enough to be hiking on a mountain trail with my sister. The air was crisp and clear, the smell of the pines was thick—a beautiful day.
We came across animal tracks, then more animal tracks, on the muddy parts of the trail.
We knew before we started that there were bears in the neighborhood. (In fact, one might say we were in the bears’ neighborhood!) The tracks seemed to have the shape of claws, with a size and depth that impressed me with a desire to avoid a meeting.
It seemed as good a time as any to turn around, so we did. My senses were on high alert as we began to descend. We reached the trailhead without incident.
Later, I looked up the facts about bear attacks. Only one out of 175 million people worldwide is the victim of a fatal bear attack each year, fewer than two in the whole United States.
The danger I perceived was far larger than the actual risk involved.
This reminds me of where we are in the investment markets. It seems to be the economic equivalent of a beautiful day: the market has had a sharp rebound from the pandemic lows of 2020. Yet some are concerned about the bear (a bear market meaning, of course, a big decline).
Just as there are plenty of bears in the wooded mountains, there are regular declines in the stock market. Some estimate that 10 to 15% declines are routine each year. But fear of the bear often seems to be greater than the actual damage a bear market might do to long-term investors.
Learning to live with the ups and downs, one may benefit from long-term growth in value. But fear of a decline that proves to be temporary—and rarely truly catastrophic—may lead one to sell out long before money is actually needed, with future gains foregone.
Clients, thank you for inviting us to hike the trails of your life with you. If you would like to talk bears or mountains or markets, please email us or call.
Want content like this in your inbox each week? Leave your email here.
Play the audio version of this post below: