Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why Does the Stock Market Go Down? Why Does the Stock Market Go Up?

          Disclaimer:  This commentary is based on nothing other than my observations from following the stock market for over 50 years.  Even as a teenager I owned some stocks and was fascinated with the market.
          Stocks go down because people (investors/advisors/money managers) are worried.  There are always plenty of things to worry about, as we all know.  Every day there’s a daily vague media excuse for why the stock market went down.  It usually concerns something that might happen, rather than something that actually did happen.  If the stock market’s decline is prolonged, stocks eventually become cheap.
          Stocks go up because stock prices are considered to be a deal.  The stock market is just a composite of stocks, and stocks are ownership in individual companies. Once investors think a company’s price is a great deal, they start buying it and the price goes up.  Once prices of lots of companies start going up, people worry less and start buying more.

          I’m speaking with an old-school naiveté based on the assumption that hedge funds and massive short-term computer trading programs don’t have a disproportional impact on the market direction.  But the folks that manage these must worry and look for deals, too.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the market continues on this path for a while.  But, at some point in the future, often when most investors are totally frustrated and looking for “safety,” others notice stock bargains and the stock market will start going up again, often rapidly and quite unexpectedly.  Hopefully, this will be sooner rather than later.
As legendary investor Warren Buffett said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.”

“So, When are You Going to Retire?”

“So, When are You Going to Retire?”
          This is a question I’m often asked.  Instead of my usual flippant reply, I thought I’d provide a more thoughtful response.
          This was supposed to be the last year of my office lease.  Several months ago, I told my wonderful landlord, Sam, that I’d probably move out at the end of the lease and move my office into my home.  Two days later I changed my mind. 
          I’m 67 now and will be 68 in August, but surprisingly, I don’t feel a day over 66.  Seriously, I still think I’m young.  I’m still fascinated with my always evolving job.  I like helping my clients/friends.  I walk a mile or so to work 2-3 times a week.  I walk 18 holes of golf most weeks.  I was away from the office almost 8 weeks last year, and enjoyed some memorable trips with Bella.  I’m at The Weatherstone daily for my morning coffee.  Some afternoon coffee breaks there have become beer breaks, particularly in the summer. Life is good and I hope this will continue. 
          In 1978 I answered a want ad for a “Financial Planner,” a relatively new occupation.  Over the decades, I acquired clients and tried to help grow their assets.  Lately, I’m more likely to be helping my clients prudently liquidate their assets.  My clients seem to be aging as fast as I am.  Some have actually retired. 
          During a recent analysis of my clientele, I discovered this:
24% are 70 or older, 53% are in their sixties; 16% are in their fifties; and only 7% are under 50.  Based on this demographic, it’s not surprising that three times as many of my clients are regularly withdrawing from their accounts, as are those adding money. 
          In many ways this withdrawal phase is a time when having a trusted financial advisor is most important.  So, it’s not a good time for me to retire.  Besides, my work doesn’t put much wear and tear on my body; it’s not like I’m operating a jack hammer every day.  I’m better now with helping my clients deal with stressful financial issues than when I was younger.  There is something to be said for wisdom earned with age.
          I’ve always believed in positioning my clients’ accounts in well-diversified mutual funds and managed accounts.  Most of those accounts are socially screened and automatically rebalanced.  This means that even if I’m not immediately available to help, these accounts should remain aligned with your most recent risk profile.  If you feel that it is time for you to become more or less aggressive with your investments, or you think that you will withdraw most of your funds within the next five years, you should schedule an appointment with me.  
          There was a long-time financial advisor at Protected Investors.  He died in his early 90s shortly after retiring.  Once a week he came into PIA’s Montgomery Street office to meet clients.  I admired Mr. G, a gentleman and professional, who always wore his business suit.  I’d like to be like Mr. G, except for the business suit-part.
          So, I don’t know when I’ll retire or move my office home, but I suspect circumstances will dictate my future.  I’ll move on if I start to feel old and tired; or if I don’t care as much as I do now; or if I outlive most of my clients; or if dramatic changes in the financial industry make my job less fun, or if a serious a health issue arises.  Until then, be assured that I do have an emergency succession plan in place and a longer term retirement succession plan as well; part of my work every year involves preparing for this transition, whenever it happens.

For now, keep me in your cell phone contact list…or in your tattered old Rolodex.