Jumping in when the waves are high
By Gary Silverman, CFP®
Since early last year, the stock market has been going up. Sure, it wasn’t a smooth ride (it never is) but there is no question as to the direction. As I am writing this, the market continues in that general direction. It doesn't seem to care about what is happening in the White House, Congress, North Korea, or just about anything else.
Don’t you think it is about time to get in? After all, I write regularly about how you shouldn’t try to time the market, but that rather you should get in it and stay in it. But wait…I write articles to you, but I don’t know you. When it comes to you, this might not be the best time to get your feet wet in the waves of this bull market we are in.
Right about now, a lot of potential investors (especially those who pulled out during the financial crisis and are still sitting in cash investments) are thinking that maybe they waited long enough. After all, in the last 18 months the market has been up around 30%. Since the financial crisis bottom in 2009 it has gone up around 180%. That’s a lot of up.
Others of you haven’t really been looking at the market, but you have been looking at the calendar—and the mirror. I’m not sure if time has given you more wisdom or more wrinkles, but it has been bringing you closer to retirement. Though few will actually take pencil to paper (or keystrokes to spreadsheets), many of those who do will find a shortfall: the retirement standard of living they want is more than their savings can afford. They know I’ve mentioned that stocks go up a lot and think that maybe that is what will save them.
So whether you are years late in getting into the current stock bull market, or are many thousands of dollars short of a retirement goal, you might be feeling pressure to either dip your toes in or jump with both feet.
If you think you’ve been missing out on something, you have. But getting in now is not going to get you in eight years ago. You are not going to participate in what has already occurred. Remember why you got out (or never got in) the stock market. Maybe you lost 30% and got out because you thought you might lose the rest of it. Or maybe you never got in knowing that you couldn’t stand to see your account go down 10% (which is fairly common with stocks) let alone 20%, 40% or more.
Given why you left or never got in, what exactly has changed? If I told you that the market will go down 25% the year after you move your money into it, how does that make you feel? What would you do? Now, I’m not saying that will happen, but it can happen over the next year. It can happen over any year.
Before you change what you are doing, especially when it comes to getting into a very old, very mature bull market, please do it with thought. Use some of that wisdom you’ve acquired. It might save you a few wrinkles.
Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing.