Don’t Worry, Be Happy

There’s a famous saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good. The same can be said of investing.

Every day there’s a new headline with a new problem. From recurring speculation of an impending crash to concerns about higher volatility to claims that August is a bad month for stocks—it’s easy to see why investors are worried. But is all this worry warranted? And, more importantly, is it worthwhile?

We think the answer is no. We’ve seen many of these fears come and go. And while we don’t know what the future holds, experience tells us many of these concerns are undue and worrying will simply do no good.

Here are a few of the common concerns we hear today, and reasons why you shouldn’t worry:

Higher interest rates will cause stock prices to fall

While we’ve been hearing this for many years, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently reignited the fear higher interest rates would soon threaten not only bond markets, but stock prices, as well.

Research shows, however, there is no predictable link between changes in interest rates and stock returns. A recent study by Wei Dai, Ph.D., a senior researcher at Dimensional Fund Advisors, examined the historical relationship between U.S. stock market returns and changes in interest rates and found none. Her results confirm what we’ve long believed—instead of seeking to predict the future, investors are better off relying on a disciplined strategy for stability and peace of mind in all market conditions.

Markets are at all-time highs and won’t last

The fear of a looming stock market crash isn’t a new one. Investors often believe a market correction is around the corner when stock returns seem to have been too good for too long. Don’t the new all-time highs increase the odds of negative future returns?

No. As we’ve written before, a new market high doesn’t tell us much about future stock market returns. What we do know for certain, however, is that in the months and years following a new record, stock markets have historically gone on to reach even higher levels far more frequently than they’ve pulled back. Remarkably, U.S. stocks have hit a new market high about every fourth month since 1926.

Betting on a market crash after a new high simply hasn’t paid.

Value stocks are holding back my portfolio

A diversified portfolio is the surest path to long-term investment success—so why can owning one be so hard? Because well-diversified portfolios are comprised of numerous asset classes, meaning part of your portfolio is guaranteed to perform worse than another every year.

So far this year, U.S. value stocks are the culprit. Value stocks, those bargain-priced shares which typically pay higher dividends, have underperformed growth stocks by 11%. The pain of underperformance has left many investors asking, “Is it time to move away from value stocks?”

Our answer is no. It’s normal to always despise part of your portfolio. We’ve shared before that owning temporary underperformers—even outright losers—is inherent to owing a diversified portfolio. While periods of pain will pop up for every asset class, combining them together can result in a portfolio with higher long-term returns and less risk than a concentrated portfolio.

Don’t worry, be happy

If history has taught us one thing, it’s that there is no use worrying about what we can’t control. We don’t know for certain what tomorrow’s markets will bring, so we focus on the important work of constructing all-weather portfolios tailored to the unique needs of each client, staying diversified, driving down investment costs and keeping a lid on taxes.

Will markets stumble in the future? It’s not a matter of if, but when. Will we know the exact cause or timing? Of course not, which is precisely why our portfolios incorporate—before a dime of our client’s life savings is ever invested—the inevitability of market downturns.

Time and energy spent worrying is better directed toward planning for the inevitable and accepting the unavoidable. By controlling what we can, we aim to keep you on the surest path to investment success while liberating you from the stress of today’s market fears. Our goal is not only to build better portfolios, but to help build happier and more prosperous lives.

So don’t worry, be happy. And enjoy the rest of your summer.

 

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