Just as it pays to establish an escape route from your home in case of a fire, it pays to establish a disciplined plan of action pertaining to your investments, all the while keeping in mind that panic is not a strategy. It is with this in mind that we thought it was timely to provide a ten step program that might help you navigate these turbulent investment waters.
Step number one. Assess your current financial situation. Items to include your income, perceived job security, details of your pension plan, projected Social Security benefits, insurances (life, health, disability, property and casualty), real estate values, mortgage information and other debt.
Step number two. Get an historical perspective on this period in history. Is it really different this time or are in a phase in our history that will pass? Keep in mind that the stock market generally moves up over full economic cycle (five to ten-year period) with mini bulls and bears contained within and then moves sideways over the next period with mini bulls and bears in between. Until further notice and most likely until monetary policy becomes substantially more restrictive, despite the dramatic pullback during March and April, we believe that the equity market remains in an upward trend.
Step number three. Given the above, begin to determine your appropriate asset allocation. Some rules of thumb include the older you are, the more fixed income (bonds) you should include in your portfolio. The more guaranteed your pension plan, the closer you are to realizing the benefits of that plan, and to what extent that pension plan along with Social Security will meet your income needs during retirement, the more equities (stocks) one should include in their portfolio. The more prone you are to making emotional investment decisions, the more you should include fixed income investments. Keep in mind that the opposites of the above also hold true and that we are speaking in generalizations only.
Step number four. Sell the peripheral holdings. Get out of investments you don’t understand or investments that contain volatility that exceeds your temperament. These may include but are not limited to emerging market funds, aggressive growth funds, non-investment grade (junk) bonds, and small cap stocks. If a lack of risk tolerance is an issue, sell so that you can sleep at night.
Step number five. Hold some cash. Depending upon your situation, we believe that anywhere from zero to twenty-five percent of your account is appropriate. Too little and you may sell in panic. Too much and you are not moving toward your long-term goals.
Step number six. Buy some dividend paying stocks. Do you realize that the ten-year U.S. Treasury Note yields approximately 1.62% and that Proctor and Gamble stock yields 2.56%? Moreover, interest rates are near fifty year lows and P&G has not only paid, but increased its dividend every year for the past sixty years. With this in mind and assuming that P&G does NOT increase or decrease their dividend over the next ten years, should the stock decline twenty-five percent over this time frame you will still make a little money. A pool of these stocks sounds like a better alternative for long-term investors than money sitting at zero percent in your bank account.
Step number seven. Recognize that too many investors have their fingers on the sell trigger and too many investors have guns – in the form of their computer. Try to determine if perhaps you are one of those individuals that does not have the temperament or time to invest on your own. There is an old adage that says, “just because you can afford the ticket doesn’t mean you can fly the plane.” Simply put, yes, it is your money, but perhaps your time, talent and temperament are better spent elsewhere.
Step number eight. Be disciplined. Don’t chase the stock market on up days thinking that you have missed the boat. There will be many more boats to come around. The volatility will continue. Be patient and let the stock market come to you. What a novel idea, buying on the down days.
Step number nine. Gain some perspective. We’re in our fifties. If statistics hold true, that means we have only about twenty summers to enjoy. All that you can do is do your best and work toward reaching your goals. It is kind of like dieting and exercising, it is your best shot, but doesn’t promise anything.
Step number ten. Become an investor, not a day trader. The media wants you to act, act, act, by always yelling fire in a crowded room. Think of the preceding nine steps to gain perspective. Buy low, sell high. Sounds easy but is rarely accomplished by the retail crowd because they are often scared out of their investments at the wrong time. If history is any guide whatsoever, this is truly what will prevent you from reaching your goals.
Please note that all data is for general information purposes only and not meant as specific recommendations. The opinions of the authors are not a recommendation to buy or sell the stock, bond market or any security contained therein. Securities contain risks and fluctuations in principal will occur. Please research any investment thoroughly prior to committing money or consult with your financial advisor. Please note that Fagan Associates, Inc or related persons buy or sell for itself securities that it also recommends to clients. Consult with your financial advisor prior to making any changes to your portfolio. To contact Fagan Associates, Please call 518-279-1044.