Today is sunny and bright, spring is in the air, and I feel excited! What a difference sunshine makes in my outlook! How about you? What makes you feel happy and content? Maybe it is a good run, the smell of coffee, walking on the beach, a good glass of wine, skiing down a mountain, holding a baby, cuddling with your cat or dog, or snuggling with your partner. I must admit, however, that I have had difficulty focusing lately. I am profoundly affected by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Maybe you feel it, too? As I try to focus on writing this blog, or putting together information for filing taxes, or even relaxing and reading a book, my thoughts keep going to the Ukraine and the threat of losing one’s home and all those things that make life meaningful.
I think about what I would pack if I had to leave my home in a hurry and could take only one suitcase and the clothes I was wearing. How could I pack all the pictures and memories that are so precious to me? Would I choose my laptop or an extra pair of shoes? How would I maintain contact with friends and family? How would we communicate if networks were down? Where would I go and what would I do in my new life?
Of course, those fleeing the Ukraine are not the only ones running in fear seeking freedom from oppression. I recently read the book by Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt. It is a novel about a mother and son who attempt to immigrate to the United States as they flee violence in Mexico, their family massacred and a price on their heads. Their story has similarities to what we see happening in the Ukraine and in too many other spots around the world—people flee their homes to find a place where they can feel safe and protected. What would you do maintain your freedom? What price would you be willing to pay?
It seems trivial to talk about investing when the lives of so many are being threatened. However, it is important to try to understand market movements, especially during these uncertain times. In a way, financial markets are like jittery people, they do not like unknowns. Those who make their living in the financial market make assumptions based on both past performance and on expectations for the future which are affected by any news with financial implications. Although market analysts look to the past for insight into the future, we also know that past performance does not predict the future and you will see that often repeated in financial disclaimers.
Expectations for the future direction of the markets and individual securities in the market may be based on extrapolation of financial data, interviews with key personnel, statements from the Federal Reserve or other government officials, technical charts, or other information or data points, such as supply and demand. The general health of our economy and of other countries around the world play an important part as well. We are all connected.
If the supply of oil from Russia is not available, for example, you can expect the price of gasoline to rise. That is a result of supply and demand. The worldwide supply is less, and if there is no change in demand, the price of oil will naturally rise unless there is intervention. Even the expectation of lower supply can cause the price of oil to increase. If lower supply materializes, countries and companies may try to stabilize prices. One option is for other oil producing countries to increase production or use their oil reserves. All the adjustments take time, however, so higher prices at the gas pump can be expected. There is a suggestion making the rounds on social media that we think of the increased price we pay for gasoline at the pump as a way that we are supporting the Ukraine. I am willing to do that. Maybe that will make the increase in cost easier to bear?
So how do you siphon through all the rhetoric and sales spin and market expectations and make yourself comfortable to invest, now and in the future? If you follow the suggestions in my blogs, before you invest you will have your living expenses covered, loans under control, and have a healthy emergency fund. You will not invest unless you plan for that money to be tucked away for a minimum of 5-7 years. With the unknowns facing us today, I suggest using 7 years as your minimum.
Then you should expect to see the market value of your portfolio go up and down during the time you invest and that movement, called volatility, is increasing. Investing is not for everyone, but it can help you build wealth, reach your financial goals, and enjoy the lifestyle you desire if you stay the course and do not panic. Remember this chart from my blog, Rest is Productive, Even for Your Investments? The chart looks at the one, three, five, ten, fifteen, and twenty-year rolling returns of the S&P 500 Index over the forty-year period of January 1979 through December 2019.
Source: Anspach, Dana, Control Your Retirement Destiny: Achieving Financial Security Before The Big Transition. Fort Collins, CO, A Book’s Mind, 2016. Chart updated by, and used with permission of, author. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
During the period shown, the worst one-year rolling time frame delivered a return of -43%. That occurred over the twelve months ending in February 2009. The best one-year index return delivered a positive 61% return, which occurred over the twelve months ending in June 1983. Huge swings can occur over relatively short time frames.
Using the same historical time frame, if you were a long-term investor, the worst twenty years delivered a return of positive 5.6% a year. That occurred over the twenty years ending in December 2019. The best twenty years delivered a return of positive 18% a year, which occurred over the twenty years ending in March 2000. Both the best and worst twenty-year rolling returns were positive. What does that indicate? The longer you can stay invested, the greater the possibility of a positive return. There is no guarantee, of course, but you increase your chances if you keep your investments in place for as long as possible.
The S&P 500 Index logged positive annual returns in 2020 and 2021. However, it was not a smooth ride. ”The 2020 financial roller coaster is a case in point. It took only about four weeks for the market to lose 32% of its value, plunging from the S&P record high of 3,358 points on Feb. 12 to 2,447 at the close on March 18, with wild swings along the way. The good news is that the S&P 500 recovered nearly all its losses [by] mid-August.”[i]
The chart below shows the monthly returns of the S&P 500 in 2020, 2021, and the first two months of 2022:
February 28, 2022 -3.14%
January 31, 2022 -5.26%
December 31, 2021 4.36%
November 30, 2021 -0.83%
October 31, 2021 6.91%
September 30, 2021 -4.76%
August 31, 2021 2.90%
July 31, 2021 2.28%
June 30, 2021 2.22%
May 31, 2021 0.55%
April 30, 2021 5.24%
March 31, 2021 4.24%
February 28, 2021 2.61%
January 31, 2021 -1.11%
December 31, 2020 3.71%
November 30, 2020 10.75%
October 31, 2020 -2.77%
September 30, 2020 -3.92%
August 31, 2020 7.01%
July 31, 2020 5.51%
June 30, 2020 1.84%
May 31, 2020 4.53%
April 30, 2020 12.68%
March 31, 2020 -12.51%
February 29, 2020 -8.41%
January 31, 2020 -1.16%
It is not easy to stay the course when the financial markets make dramatic daily drops such as those we have seen so far in 2022. Maybe it is time for you to revisit your mix of investments to reduce the volatility in your portfolio. See my blog, The Key to Investing – Know Yourself. It may also be a good time to make sure you have an adequate emergency fund in place, see Your First Financial Step.
Last week’s blog, Saving for Education, focused on the types of accounts used to save and invest for education. Education of our youth will affect not only their future, but all our future. When I see pictures of young children sleeping in subways in the Ukraine, I am reminded once again how fortunate we are! And yet, those children, largely due to the efforts of their mothers, maintain their innocence and energy! They just want to play and explore and learn…… and go home! They love so freely and openly. There are no restrictions or biases. I am sure there are spats, but rarely do children hold grudges for very long. We could learn a lesson from them! However, the world is complicated, and some of the decisions we make are not easy. I see the questions in the eyes of the children in the Ukraine and yet they smile.
The decisions that the world’s leaders must make today, and in the weeks ahead, are critical. Please take a moment right now, no matter your personal religious or political beliefs, to send thoughts of peace and love around the world, and especially to our leaders. Please focus on the Ukraine and Russia and the leaders of those countries and the response to Russia’s aggression by other countries. I realize there are other places of conflict in our world, but none as close to the brink of worldwide conflict and destruction. If we start with visions of peace and harmony in and between Russia and the Ukraine, then we can also envision that outcome for the rest of the world.
May the sun shine on all of us!
~Bev Bowers, CFP®
[i] Green, Jeffrey M, reviewed by James, Margaret (2021, October 24) How Do Stock and Bond Performance Compare Over Time? Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/stocks-vs-bonds-the-long-term-performance