Trump and Your Investment Portfolio

If you were watching the results on election night, you saw the financial markets react. In the wee small hours of November 9, Dow futures plunged just over 4% while gold and US Treasuries soared. (Markets are funny and tend to be unpredictable in the short term). Since the election, however, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has reached an all-time high.

Sure, Donald Trump is an unconventional politician and has said that he likes to be unpredictable. At this time, we’re not sure what to think or how he’ll govern. Once his cabinet is in place, we’ll have a better idea. Still, you may be thinking that a Trump presidency is “different,” but market volatility is certainly not something that we haven’t seen before. In the past 18 months, we’ve had several instances of investors feeling that “this time it’s different.”

Back in July 2015, the Greek financial crisis dominated the headlines. Investors feared Greece’s problems would spread to the rest of Europe. Then the following month, it was “Black Monday.” When the Chinese government devalued the Yuen, markets went tumbling down. At the beginning of 2016, the Dow Jones Industrial Average got off to its worst start ever dropping 5.5%. And most recently, we had Brexit. Shortly after Britain announced it was exiting from the European Union, the market lost 6% but days later gained back 8%. The bottom line is: Markets, like people, do not like change. But through all this hubbub, U.S. markets continue to hover around historical highs.

Back to your investments. What should you do to protect yourself during a Trump presidency? Nothing. If you’re diversified, you don’t need to sweat the headlines. We can’t predict the future, and we sure as heck can’t predict the markets. That’s why it may be wise to follow the investment ways of some of the world’s wealthiest families and most sophisticated investors. They manage risk through diversification.* This means not weighting one’s investments in with any sector of the economy such as energy or banking, or falling in love with an individual stock such as Apple.

Besides, your investment portfolio isn’t designed for a four-year presidential term. You’re in it for the long run. Investors who stay the course have historically been rewarded. Here’s one thing we can anticipate during the next four years. The markets will go up, and the markets will go down. And parts of your portfolio will do better than other parts. My advice is to stay disciplined, diversified* and focused on the future. If you’re not sure whether you have enough diversification*, a fee-based financial advisor can help you.

*Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against a loss.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a widely watched index of 30 American stocks thought to represent the pulse of the American economy and markets.

Sir Isaac Newton: The Emotional Investor

Sir Isaac Newton, as everyone knows, was a genius. His endless curiosity led him to tackle problems as minuscule as rug-peeing cats and as grandiose as humanity’s ultimate purpose in the cosmos. Naturally, we might think that a person this smart would also be a genius investor, someone who’s able to outguess the markets and become a multimillionaire with his investment acumen.

But Sir Isaac Newton was no outlier when it came to investing. He started out well enough by investing some of his money into the South Sea Company, a hot stock of the seventeenth century, and sold the stock for a handsome profit. But the stock continued to rise after he sold it. Initially, Newton resisted reinvesting his hard earned money back into the stock, but it continued to rise even higher, and that’s when the trouble began. As the stock price kept going up, Newton started to experience the all too human emotions of envy, regret and greed which often get investors into big trouble.

As the stock climbed, he plowed all his money back into the South Sea Company and shortly afterwards, the stock crashed, and he lost a fortune. By some accounts, he lost the equivalent of almost $3 million, adjusted for today’s dollars. Reflecting on his loss, Newton was quoted as saying, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” He blamed others instead of himself for his stock investing folly. But he simply let his emotions get away from him. He moved from being an investor to a speculator and a gambler. He gambled away a fortune, and as the saying goes: the house always wins.

If Newton had lived in modern times, he may have learned from social scientists that human beings are not wired to invest in the stock market. In times of stress, our primitive brain, which is responsible for survival behaviors such as flight or fight, kicks in. The primitive brain really starts to go haywire when we are losing money, or we feel like we are in danger. It for sure comes in handy if we smell smoke in our house, but it can cloud our judgment when it comes to our investment decisions.

Humans also have another behavioral bias called the “recency” effect. That is, we tend to apply a higher probability to things that have happened recently. Think back to earlier this year when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped over 1,100 points in less than a month. Many people thought that we were going to have a replay of 2008 when the market dropped about 40%, and they panicked. Of course, we didn’t go into another recession, and the markets recovered.

As Sir Isaac Newton proved, the smartest guy in the room is often not the smartest investor. Newton didn’t have discipline or a goal-oriented plan; he just kept jumping in and out of the market. Like Newton, our emotional behavior can blow up our plans. Worse, it’s almost impossible to identify this behavior in ourselves. Even if we could recognize it, we can’t turn our primitive brains off to think objectively. That’s why you should work with a trusted financial advisor who is not emotionally attached to your money and can think objectively. A good advisor will keep you disciplined and focused on your goals and not let your emotions drive your investment decisions. And unlike Newton, a good advisor won’t gamble away your money.

(This post was originally published on Paladin Registry: http://blog.paladinregistry.com/investing-2/the-emotional-investor-sir-isaac-newton/)

Why You Shouldn’t Panic During a Down Market

The past few days have been turbulent on Wall Street, and it’s been years since we’ve seen this kind of fear among investors. But don’t panic. The best way that I know to combat the fear of a down market is to look back in history and realize that the stock market is an upward reaching entity which occasionally takes a break and hovers at lower elevations for awhile.

Let’s look at the stock market’s history which is the only guide we have. The graph below illustrates every up and down market from 1949 through the end of 2014. Viewing this graph, it becomes evident that up markets far exceed down markets when measured by the percentage of rise and the number of years the markets rise.

For instance, there was a total of 780 months during that 65-year period and 606 of those months were up months for the market; conversely, there were 174 down months. The bottom line is that during this 65-year time period, the S&P 500 index returned 11.5%.

If you’re still anxious, my advice is always the same: stay disciplined, goal-oriented, and diversified. That’s the best way to navigate these market storms.

Up Markets Greatly Exceed the Down Markets/Change in the S&P500 (1949-2014)

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An index is a portfolio of specific securities (common examples are the S&P, DJlA, NASDAQ). The performance of which is often used as a bench mark in judging the relative performance of certain asset classes. Indexes are unmanaged portfolios, and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Advisory services offered through Jeffrey A. Bogart, Registered Investment Advisor