Common Investor Mistakes During Market Corrections

Common Investor Mistakes During Market Corrections

 

When it comes to investing, market corrections are inevitable. Since 1950, there have been 37 declines in the S&P 500 of 10% or more—or approximately one every two years. Enduring these corrections is the price we pay as long-term investors striving to meet our financial goals. How we act during these time periods is what separates the rookies from the professionals and can dramatically alter how successful we are in achieving those goals.

We all tend to have a higher risk tolerance when markets are performing well. During a review with our financial advisor in the comforts of a home or office, we can easily imagine a world where stocks might be 10% to 20% cheaper on paper and how that may impact our financial goals. However, when we think about future risks in the markets, we tend to underestimate how we will feel in the moment. We lose sight of what else is happening in the world that is causing the markets to decline and how that might impact us personally. This year is no different, and the laundry list of reasons is long:

  • The war in Ukraine is costly
  • Inflation is the highest in 40 years
  • The Federal Reserve is tightening monetary policy
  • The supply chain is a mess
  • Mortgage rates are rising at the same time housing prices are at all-time highs
  • The pandemic is not over
  • Market valuations are too expensive, and we are overdue for a reset

The bottom line is, there is always a reason for why we experience market volatility, and how that impacts us personally can create stress, fear, and anxiety. When we let our emotions take over, we naturally have an urge to do something about it. These emotional reactions can lead to mistakes that can reduce the probability of meeting our finance and investment goals. Below are common mistakes investors make during market corrections and steps we can take to help mitigate costly errors.

 

Mistake #1: Looking at the market daily

When headlines are scary, the daily moves in the stock market are volatile and unpredictable. Checking the market or your portfolio frequently will only heighten any fear and anxiety and may result in poor investing decisions. During difficult markets, it is important to remember that you have an entire team working for you at Merriman. We have designed your portfolio using decades of academic research to weather all types of market environments so you can have peace of mind. We are also here to take on any blame for when things do not go as planned. You should take advantage of the resources at Merriman and schedule a time with your advisor to help refocus on your long-term plan.

 

Mistake #2: Deviating from an investment plan or not having a plan at all

Another reason you have an advisor at Merriman is to create an investment plan that aligns with your goals, return expectations, and risk profile. The plan is a customized, long-term strategy meant to withstand multiple market cycles. If you have the urge to change your plan during a market correction, then have a conversation with your advisor and ask the following questions: Have my long-term goals changed? Am I still on track to meet those goals? If I deviate from my investment plan, how will that impact the probability of successfully meeting my goals? These questions will help reduce any reactionary emotions and shift your mindset back to the big picture.

 

Mistake #3: Trading more frequently or trying to time the bottom

Day trading and market timing strategies are automated systems that utilize algorithms and programmed rules designed to execute trades in milliseconds. This places the human day trader at a significant disadvantage. While the data supports that day trading or attempts to time the market are not additive to long-term returns, market corrections can be an excellent time to be a buyer.
However, it is vital to have an investment plan in place so you are prepared to execute in the moment. As an example, a rebalancing strategy is one method that is highly effective for long-term results. This removes emotions from the equation and allows for a disciplined plan of attack during market downturns.

 

While your feelings play a vital role in determining the right long-term strategy for you, we cannot let emotions dictate our investing decisions, particularly during market corrections. This can lead to short-term mistakes that, left unchecked, can have negative impacts on your retirement goals. A disciplined investing approach based on facts, not emotions, is the winning formula.

 

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital and past performance does not guarantee future returns; please seek advice from a licensed professional.

Generation 401(k)

Generation 401(k)

 

The 401(k) has only been around since the early 1980s. When Indiana Jones was searching for the Lost Ark, employees were just beginning to contribute to their own retirement savings instead of relying on employer-run pension plans. Widespread adoption took a few years, so we’re just now starting to see a generation of hard-working Americans who were in charge of their own retirement throughout their entire career. I call these individuals Generation 401(k).

Bull markets in the ‘80s and ‘90s gave a lot of people confidence that 401(k)s were a much better way to save, but then a couple of recessions in the 2000s made everyone take a closer look at the pros and cons of self-directed retirement savings. In reality, 401(k)s were a way for employers to cut costs and worry less about having to make pension payments in the future. For employees, being in control of one’s own retirement seemed like a great opportunity; but it turns out it was more of a huge responsibility than anything else.

Before 401(k)s, many employees worked hard and didn’t think about how much they needed to save to create an income stream during retirement because their pension would take care of it. The pension wasn’t optional—it was automatic—and the employer was on the hook if anything bad happened in the stock market. Then, all of a sudden, the 401(k) came along, and employees had to choose how much to save, figure out where to save it, and then be able to stomach the ups and downs of the economic roller coaster. As a result, there is a whole generation of soon-to-be-retirees who are just now realizing they don’t have enough saved to enjoy life after work.

Millennials aren’t Generation 401(k). For the most part, it’s the parents of millennials who got stuck making self-directed investment decisions but lacked guidance and education on how to do it. It’s not their fault. The parents of Generation 401(k) weren’t able to teach their children how to invest wisely because it was never something they had to worry about. The result was inevitable: When it comes to preparing for retirement, trying to figure it out along the way isn’t the best path to achieve a stress-free life after work.

Where does this leave us today? For many in Generation 401(k), it’s catch-up time. Quite literally. In 2001, laws changed that allowed individuals to put more into their 401(k), including a new rule that allowed employees 50 or older to save more than their younger colleagues. These extra contributions for those over 50 are called “catch-up” contributions. This means that the final 10–15 years before retirement is a crucial time for saving as much as possible. In other words: It’s pedal to the metal time for saving.

For the younger generations, millennials and Gen Z, financial resources and education have caught up to the times. Young adults in their 20s and 30s know that achieving financial independence is their responsibility. The internet has made finding planning tools and investment knowledge available at the touch of a button or a voice command (“Hey Siri, how do I save for retirement?”). Preparing for early retirement has even sparked a revolution in how we perceive life after work. The “Financial Independence, Retire Early” (F.I.R.E.) movement has an almost cult-like following. The principles at the core of F.I.R.E. are nothing new, but the delivery has entered the 21st century by embracing technology and social media.

There is one common thread between Generation 401(k) and the younger generations. Whether retirement is 5 years away or 30 years away, it’s not going to happen the way you want it to happen without a plan. People who are planning to retire can do it alone, or they can choose to work with a professional. In these times of information overload, the allure of the do-it-yourself method has created paralysis-by-analysis for many. There are so many different moving parts to putting together a well-thought-out retirement plan that many people start down the path only to end up frustrated and rudderless before actually doing anything.

If you find yourself worried about having enough when you retire and you don’t have time or energy to dedicate to creating a financial plan, then you should hire a professional who can help you. Also, it’s not enough just to create a plan. You need to work with someone who will ensure that you implement your plan. Hoping you’ll be able to enjoy life after work is a stressful way to go through life. Knowing you have a solid plan in place to achieve your financial goals can give you peace of mind. How do you want to retire? Hoping it’ll all work out? Or knowing you can be financially independent?

DISCLOSURE: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax or legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital and past performance does not guarantee future returns; please seek advice from a licensed professional. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Merriman and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Merriman unless a client service agreement is in place.

Overcoming Financial Fears

Overcoming Financial Fears

 

Early in my career, I had several instances of folks canceling their appointments with me last minute. Some were for emergencies with work or family, and some were for reasons such as “not being prepared to meet” or “not sure this is the avenue I want to take” or, in rare cases, saying nothing at all. It was easy to take that personally, but over the years I have come to realize that such cancelations or procrastination in general when meeting with a professional financial planner is often driven by fear.

Let me give you some context. When someone has a financial problem today, they often will hit the internet—Google, YouTube, a blogger whom they follow for answers. When answers are harder to come by, they might call a trusted friend or family member and ask for help. Getting even to this point takes time; the question may be put back on the shelf for another day. But let’s assume it is a big issue, like buying a new home and figuring out how to finance two homes for a time. This person will need answers, soon, and a professional advisor to help. From here, they may ask for a referral or hit up Google again for folks to call—but then it comes the call, scheduling, and SHOWING UP to the appointment. They have gone through five or more steps just to get to appointment day, and now they are ready to cancel.

Why? We live in a world where finances are not often discussed, even amongst our closest family. We have been taught that you don’t discuss it, and then we are bombarded for years with the Joneses’ owning the next big, expensive item. Facebook and Instagram have shown us the best of other people’s lives; and by comparison, we feel inadequate, even if our financial road has been relatively free of detours. This feeling can make it difficult to approach a professional and lay out our financial truth. But I am here to say that it doesn’t have to be.

As an advisor, I pride myself on being neutral. Your financial life up to today is what it is, and we cannot change those facts. If you have debt, feel like you should have saved more, are late to the game, or have gotten this far by sheer luck, it does not matter. In fact, it does not change who you are as a person. If you are asking for guidance, any great advisor will take the time to educate you on what they feel is best for your situation and will strive to make you feel at ease.

As you are searching for an advisor, look for someone who you feel you can trust. Meet with several if the first one isn’t right. In fact, check out our blog posts on what to look for in an advisor and the 10 reasons why clients hire us. Everyone has something in their financial past that they are not proud of, and airing that to a stranger can feel scary; but I promise that we are not the “financial confessional” I once had someone mention to me. We are here to help and would love to meet you.

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Inflation Is Rising – Should I Be Worried?

Inflation Is Rising – Should I Be Worried?

Inflation is rising—should I be worried? What can I do to protect my wealth against inflation if it continues rising?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI)—the generally accepted measure of inflation—increased by 5.3% for the 12 months ending in August 2021. Prices for all items less (the more volatile) food and energy rose 4.0% over the last 12 months ending in August. This is a much larger increase in inflation than we’ve seen in over a decade. In the decade earlier, the annual increase in the CPI has remained lower than 2%. In fact, for many of those years, it was even below 1.5%.

With inflation on the rise, many clients are asking what we are doing to protect their assets against this increase in the cost of everything.

A colleague of mine recently shared a chart that I found very telling:

Chart produced by Craig L. Israelsen, Ph.D.    www.7TwelvePortfolio.com

This data shows that investing in stocks has provided a solid defense against inflation—whether we were in a rising interest rate environment or a declining interest rate environment.

The data suggests that in higher inflation periods, small cap stocks have been particularly valuable.

The economy is a very complex organism with so many different variables that will be affected if indeed inflation continues to grow, yet one foundational reason that stocks are a good defense against inflation is that companies pass on the higher cost of materials and goods to consumers. As consumers, this does mean we pay higher prices for things; and as investors, it means that we grow our portfolios, earning a premium above the inflation rate.

Our research team is monitoring the current trajectory of inflation.  Your portfolio at Merriman is already prepared for the potential of continued rising inflation. We “tilt” our portfolios towards small cap stocks. Other ways your portfolio is protected against inflation include using REIT’s and inflation protected bonds (where appropriate), keeping our bonds “short” and “Intermediate” in duration – which also helps in keeping, what we feel, is the right level of defense against stock market drops.  We use cash flow modeling to explore what it may look like if inflation was to remain high for each of our clients.

You have worked with your advisor here to determine right mix of stocks for your situation.  We believe keeping the right mix of “offense” and “defense” has been and continues to be the best way to balance the constant and changing risks posed to your investment portfolio. If you aren’t sure if you have the right balance for your situation or wish to understand how higher inflation can affect you specifically, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.

 

 

All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax or legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital and past performance does not guarantee future returns; please seek advice from a licensed professional. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Merriman and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Merriman unless a client service agreement is in place.

 

Why Diversification Matters

Why Diversification Matters

 

 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” but what exactly does that mean for retirement planning? Or, put a different way: Why should you care about diversifying your investments?

 

I’ve had a number of conversations lately with my clients who have a concentrated portfolio (sometimes through no fault of their own), and thankfully the past decade has rewarded many of them. Either because of how they’re compensated (i.e., RSUs) or through a laid-back approach to rebalancing, I’ve seen a lot of portfolios with a large allocation to one or a handful of stocks. Mostly, it’s been a concentration in tech stocks (e.g., AMZN, MSFT, GOOG, FB, SNAP, TSLA, etc.), but because of how the recent bull market has been a success story for many large growth companies, I’ve seen lots of different variations all with a common theme: A lot of eggs, all in one basket.

 

First, we need to understand the importance of diversification. Building a portfolio with lots of different types of investments spreads the risk around. Technically speaking, to have a well-diversified portfolio means you have different assets that are as uncorrelated to each other as possible. It’s not necessarily a quantity-over-quality metric. You can easily have a portfolio made up of dozens or hundreds of different stocks/mutual funds/ETFs and still be undiversified if all of those investments behave very similarly. Proper diversification can be achieved by investing in asset classes that are made up of different types of investments (stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, cash, etc.), by investing in the same type of investment (small-sized company stock vs large-sized company stock), and by investing in different geographic regions (US vs International). Obviously, this is a high-level overview, and there’s a lot of research and effort that goes into building a thoughtfully diversified portfolio.

 

Now, back to why you should care. There’s another famous saying that goes something like this: Wealth can be built with concentration, but it should be protected with diversification. A realistic investment philosophy should be built with planning at its core. I often tell my clients (or anyone that will listen) that it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the market, but we can prepare for the unexpected.

 

“While we can’t predict the markets, we can prepare for them.”

 

If you’ve built up a concentrated portfolio and because of that concentrated allocation you’re closer to retirement than you might have been otherwise: Congrats! I’m not here to chastise anyone for successfully building their wealth. Instead, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: What’s next? Or better put: What’s your plan to protect your hard-earned wealth? This is where diversification can make a huge impact on your future retirement plans. A well-constructed and professionally managed portfolio should be able to weather the ups and the downs of different market cycles. It’s very important that I point out that a diversified portfolio is in no way immune to losses, but with the right amount of guidance and discipline, diversification can be the key to long lasting financial freedom.

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Psychology of Investing

Psychology of Investing

 

 

“The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works.”
– Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

“It’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid.”
– Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway

 

In its most basic form, investing involves allocating money with the expectation of some benefit, or return, in the future that compensates us for the risk taken by investing in the first place. Investing is a decision: buy or sell, stock A or stock B, equities or bonds, invest now or later. But as the great Charlie Munger reminds us above, investing is far from easy. Prior to making an investment decision, we create statistical models, build spreadsheets, use fundamental and technical analysis, gather economic data, and analyze company financial statements. We compile historical information to project future return and risk measures. But no matter how much information we gather or the complexity of our investment process, there isn’t one rule that works all the time. Investing involves so much more than models and spreadsheets. It is an art rather than a science that involves humans interacting with each other—for every buyer, there is a seller. At its core, investing is a study of how we behave.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are famous for their work on human behavior, particularly around judgment and decision making. Judgment is about estimating and thinking in probabilities. Decision making is about how we make choices under uncertainty (which is most of the time). Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their work in 2002, an honor that would have certainly been shared with Tversky had he not passed away in 1996. Their findings challenged the basic premise under modern economic theory that human beings are rational when making judgments and decisions. Instead, they established that human errors are common, predictable, and typically arise from cognitive and emotional biases based on how our brains are designed.

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman describes our brains as having two different, though interconnected, systems. System 1 is emotional and instinctive. It lies in the brain’s amygdala and uses heuristics or “rules of thumb” to simplify information and allow for quick gut decisions. In contrast, System 2 is associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex. It is slow, deliberate, and calculating. As an example, if I write “2 + 2 =”, your mind without any effort will come up with the answer. That is System 1 at work. If I write “23 x 41=”, your mind most likely switches over to the slower moving System 2. While Systems 1 and 2 are essential to our survival as humans, Kahneman found that both systems, and how they interact with each other, can often lead to poor (and sometimes irrational) decisions. We can apply much of what Kahneman and Tversky discovered to investor behavior. Let’s focus on some of the most common biases and how they impact our decision making.

Loss Aversion

Kahneman and Tversky summarized loss aversion bias with the expression “losses loom larger than gains.” The key idea behind loss aversion is that humans react differently to gains and losses. Through various studies and experiments, Kahneman and Tversky concluded that the pain we experience from investing losses is twice as powerful as the pleasure we get from an equivalent gain. This can lead to several mistakes, such as selling winners too early for a small profit or selling during severe market downturns to avoid further losses. Loss aversion, if left unchecked, can lead to impulse decision making driven by the emotions of System 1.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias leads people to validate incoming information that supports their preexisting beliefs and reject or ignore any contradictory information. In other words, it is seeing what you want to see and hearing what you want to hear. As investors, we are prone to spending more time looking for information that confirms our investment idea or philosophy. This can lead to holding on to poor investments when there is clear contradictory information available.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is very common with investor behavior. We convince ourselves that we made an accurate investment decision in the past which led to excellent future results. This can lead to overconfidence that our investment philosophy or process works all the time. On the flip side, hindsight can lead to regret if we missed an opportunity. Why didn’t I buy Amazon in 2001? Why didn’t I sell before this bear market? As I always say, I would put the results of my “Hindsight Portfolio” up against Warren Buffet’s any day!

Overconfidence

As mentioned above, investors can become overconfident if they have some success. This can lead to ignoring data or models because we think we know better. As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Overconfidence can lead to a knockout, and investors must be flexible and open with their process.

Recency Bias

Recency bias is when investors emphasize or give too much weight to recent events when making decisions and give less weight to the past. This causes short-term thinking and allows us to lose focus on our long-term investment plan. It essentially explains why investors tend to be more confident during bull markets and fearful during bear markets.

 

I could write an entire book on investor psychology. The bottom line is that we cannot eliminate these biases. After all, we are all human. Even Kahneman, who made the study of human behavior his life work, admits he is constantly impacted by his own biases. However, there are certain actions or “nudges” that can help address such biases and avoid making costly mistakes. At Merriman, we have built the firm in such a way to use our knowledge about human behavior in the work we perform for our clients. Below are some of the main examples:

Evidence-Based

We build and design our investment strategies based on academic data going back hundreds of years. We are evidence-based rather than emotionally-driven investors. We think long term and do not let short term noise or recent events impact the process. We build globally diversified portfolios across different asset classes to produce the best risk-adjusted returns. That said, we are consistently researching and studying to find data that might contradict our investment philosophy and will make changes if the evidence supports it.

Financial Planning

A well-built financial plan is at the core of our client’s long-term success. It is a living document that requires frequent updates based on changes in our lives—retirement, education funding, taxes, change in job, business sale, and estate planning. This forces us to make investment decisions based on the relevant factors of that plan and not on emotions—because at the end of the day, investing is meant to help reach our goals.

Education

At Merriman, we do our best to help educate our clients on our investment philosophy. Blogs, quarterly letters, seminars, client events, and video content are all examples of tools we use to educate our firm and clients. Knowledge and awareness are powerful tools to help us make sound decisions.

 

We are all going through an extremely stressful situation right now—both personally and professionally. Now, more than ever, we need to lean on each other and show empathy and support through this unprecedented time. Remember, investing is a study of how humans behave. At Merriman, we want to be your resource to guide you through both calm and turbulent markets, helping you reach your financial goals. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to discuss how we can help.