It’s natural during times of economic and market volatility to question the risk of investing. We get it. We really do.
Here’s the most common investing-in-a-downturn question we’re hearing: “What should I do with my money right now?”
Our recommendation, straight from Ellevest Chief Investment Officer, Dr. Sylvia Kwan, who has 30 years of experience in investing: Keep calm and keep investing for the long term. As it always has been during past periods of market volatility.
Let’s quickly take a step back for a broader perspective: Since the early 1900s, the stock market has gone up just under 10% a year, on average. Because of this, and because of the power of compounding, you could’ve invested on any given day over those 123 years and — if you stayed invested for 10 years — your chances of a positive return were ~98%. If you stayed invested for 15 years, it was closer to 99%.*
Now, you didn’t get that 10% annual return without any risk. And lots of difficult things happened over that period of time that caused the market to lurch down. Things like: The pandemic of the late 1910s. World War I and World War II. The Great Depression. The Korean War. The Vietnam War. Runaway inflation of the 1970s. The energy crisis. The Crash of 1987. The Cold War. The internet bubble bursting. The subprime crisis. The recent pandemic.
You get the point.
But despite all of this, the US and global economies continued growing, and the stock and bond markets continued to grow in value. Even today, we forecast they’ll keep on doing just that.
You may be thinking, “Thank you for the advice. But I’ll just pause my monthly investment contributions, and return when things feel better.”
But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Because the stock and bond markets are forward-looking in nature, the investors, traders, and portfolio managers behind them are always investing based on what they expect in the future. Not based on the world as it was or the world as it is at this moment — but as they project it to be.
“A bull market climbs a wall of worry.”
The stock market can go up even if the external environment doesn’t seem to warrant it. It may be looking through the bad news to the good news on the other side.
An example: Let’s say the Federal Reserve increases interest rates. That seems like bad news, since that makes some things, like the cost of borrowing, more expensive. But the stock market may in fact go up because it may believe that increased interest rates will help slow the economy, thus tamping down inflation. Near-term bad news may lead to medium-term good news.
This makes it tough to “time the market.”
Then, add this to the mix: Historically, many of the positive returns in the stock market are the result of a few days of good performance. And, sadly, it’s never clear when those days will be (except in hindsight — regardless of what some overblown pundit on CNBC says).
“Time IN the market is better than TIMING the market.”
It’s how we invest at Ellevest: Set a plan. Set your investments. If you’re able to, set up a recurring deposit into your account so you can invest consistently. Finally, know that there’ll be volatility along the way. That’s part of the process.
Now, with zero investment moves to make, we hope you can breathe easier. Because sticking it out in the market should help you feel a little less money stress. If you ask us, that’s worth it.
If that’s not the case, we’re still here for you. Check out more tips and guidance from Ellevest to help you navigate these uncertain economic times:
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