What if I’m Wrong?

Being wrong is no fun just ask the referees from the recent NFC playoff game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.

Timing is everything and sometimes the difference between right and wrong is a split-second decision. Of course, no one wants to be wrong, but it’s a part of life.

I believe stocks will generate wealth for years to come, but what if I’m wrong? What if you invest at the wrong time and lose money? Can you recover from a sharp sell off? Since 1926 stocks have risen about three quarters of the time and generated an average annual return of 10%. They’ve created wealth for legions of investors but what if it’s different this time?

Let’s look back at four difficult times for investors: 1929, 1973, 2000 and 2008.

1929

On January 1, 1929 an investor who started with $1,000,000 and allocated their holdings to 60% stocks, 40% bonds lost money for six straight years before recovering in 1935 with a value of $1,018,082. The stock component of $600,000 fell 65% to $207,961 by the end of 1932. The bond portfolio never dipped below $400,000. The returns weren’t great, but over 20 years the portfolio generated an average annual return of 3.8%.  From 1929 to 1949 stocks rose 50% of the time, bonds 85%.  At the end of 1949 the portfolio was worth $2,188,086, a gain of $1,188,086.

1973

An investor with a $1,000,000 portfolio and an allocation of 60% stocks, 40% bonds in 1973 had to wait until 1976 before their account was profitable. The combined portfolio generated an average annual return of 7.05% from 1973 to 1983. Stocks fell 37% in the first two years, but they made money 63% of the time, bonds made money 54%. The $1,000,000 portfolio was worth $2,114,774 at the end of 1983, a gain of $1,114,774.

2000

An investor with $1,000,000 and an allocation of 60% stocks, 40% bonds had to wait until 2003 before their portfolio recovered. Stocks fell 37% from 2000 to 2002 and their bonds never lost money. In fact, from 2000 to 2018 bonds outperformed stocks by a wide margin. Stocks averaged 4.65% annually while bonds returned 6.87%. The combined portfolio turned $1,000,000 into $2,834,987 at the end of 2018, a gain of $1,834,987. Stocks rose 74% of the time, bonds 79%.  The combined portfolio generated an average annual return of 5.64%.

2008

An investor with $1,000,000 and an allocation of 60% stocks, 40% bonds had to wait two years before their portfolio recovered. In 2008 stocks fell 37% and bonds rose 26%. Stocks rose 81% of the time, bonds 63%. The combined portfolio returned 6.44% per year and the portfolio grew to $1,987,575 at the end of 2018, a gain of $987,575.

Despite investing during some of the worst times in history, these portfolios still generated positive returns over time. A courageous investor made money by staying the course. Trying to time the market and panicking during downturns will do more harm than good. If you’re a long-term investor, ignore the short-term ripples in the market.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

January 23, 2019

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.  The returns were calculated based on the data from the 2015 Ibbotson® SBBI® Classic Year Book.