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Things Everyone Should Know About Investing & The Economy

December 17, 2014
(Reprinted from the January 2015 edition of the Bath Country Journal.)
 
A recent article, “122 Things Everyone Should Know About Investing & The Economy” from Business Insider, features a lot of interesting and often overlooked facts, figures, and quotes. See how much you know.
 
Regarding market predictions:
The phrase "double-dip recession" was mentioned 10.8 million times in 2010 and 2011, according to Google. It never came. There were virtually no mentions of "financial collapse" in 2006 and 2007. It did come. A similar story can be told virtually every year.
 
According to Bloomberg, the 50 stocks in the S&P 500 that Wall Street rated the lowest at the end of 2011 outperformed the overall index by 7 percentage points over the following year.
 
Regarding how markets and the economy actually work:
A broad index of U.S. stocks increased 2,000-fold between 1928 and 2013, but lost at least 20% of its value 20 times during that period.  Volatility is common.
 
There were 272 automobile companies in 1909. Through consolidation and failure, three emerged on top, two of which went bankrupt. Spotting a promising trend and identifying a winning investment are two different things.
 
Two things make an economy grow: population growth and productivity growth. Everything else is a function of one of those two drivers.
 
Polls show Americans for the last 25 years have said the economy is in a state of decline. Pessimism in the face of advancement is the norm.
 
There is virtually no correlation between what the economy is doing and stock market returns. According to Vanguard, rainfall is actually a better predictor of future stock returns than GDP growth. (Both explain slightly more than nothing.)
 
According to economist Tim Duy, "As long as people have babies, as long as capital depreciates, technology evolves, and tastes and preferences change, there is a powerful underlying impetus for growth that is almost certain to reveal itself in any reasonably well-managed economy."
 
On successful investing:
In expert tennis, 80% of the points are won, while in amateur tennis, 80% are lost. The same is true for wrestling, chess, and investing: Beginners and novices should focus on avoiding mistakes.
 
You can control your portfolio allocation, your own education, who you listen to, what you read, what evidence you pay attention to, and how you respond to certain events. You cannot control what the Fed does, laws Congress sets, the next jobs report, or whether a company will beat earnings estimates. Focus on the former; try to ignore the latter.
 
Author Nick Murray once said, "Timing the market is a fool's game, whereas time in the market is your greatest natural advantage." Remember this the next time you're compelled to cash out.
 
Investor Ralph Wagoner once explained how markets work, recalled by Bill Bernstein: "He likens the market to an excitable dog on a very long leash in New York City, darting randomly in every direction. The dog's owner is walking from Columbus Circle, through Central Park, to the Metropolitan Museum. At any one moment, there is no predicting which way the pooch will lurch. But in the long run, you know he's heading northeast at an average speed of three miles per hour. What is astonishing is that almost all of the market players, big and small, seem to have their eye on the dog, and not the owner.
 
Kevin Kroskey, CFP®, MBA is President of True Wealth Design, an independent investment advisory and financial planning firm that assists individuals and businesses with their overall wealth management, including retirement planning, tax planning and investment management needs.
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