Believe it or not, the S&P 500 has returned an average of 10.2% over the past 100 years. That’s something for investors to keep in mind as they scratch their heads at today’s equities roller coaster, wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to just put their money in a coffee can and bury it out back.
While it’s never a good idea to convert investments to cash and stow it in some dark place, there is plenty of debate about safety in times of market volatility. Let’s face it, most investors could do without the market swings like the ones we’ve watch this year.
Take Oct. 13, for example. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell early in the trading day by more than 500 points after the release of a Consumer Price Index report. But later in the day, the Dow took an inexplicable turn to finish with a gain of more than 800 points. The next day, the market changed its mind again, and the Dow fell by more than 400 points.
That’s the kind of stress a lot of investors would rather avoid, which is why many turn to real estate as a stable alternative to harbor money until the storms subside. But the fact is, real estate is no haven.
The term, mark to market refers to the current value of an asset, and in equities, mark to market is constantly changing as hundreds of thousands of asset trades happen every day. While that can be a benefit, it’s also a burden to some investors who find themselves bouncing between euphoria and misery on a continual basis.
Real estate may seem more attractive because there’s an illusion of stability. But in reality, real estate is affected by interest rate hikes and many of the same economic forces that impact stocks. The difference is real estate doesn’t react to them as efficiently as the equities market.
In the last U.S. recession, the S&P 500 declined more than 36% in 2008, then rebounded by more than 25% in 2009. Real estate also reacted to the recession, but that market’s behavior was quite different. Look what happened in Florida. Real estate began to decline in 2008 and continued to fall until the market hit bottom in 2011 and 2012, declining 30% to 50% or more.
Because of the lengthy nature of transactions, real estate is not only slow to decline, it’s also slow to recover. But there’s nothing wrong with real estate as an investment. Along with stocks and bonds, real estate can create enormous value. It’s just not the best protection from turbulent markets.
The economy can be fluid, and occasional market turmoil is inherent. That’s why investors establish long-term investment plans they can stick with, regardless of the climate.
There is risk in investing, but history tells us that cloudy skies don’t last forever, so there’s no point in seeking shelter when we have investment plans to help us ride out storms. So, in times of turmoil, resist the urge to run for cover. Instead, hold on to your plan and stay focused on your long-term journey. There may be some ups and downs, but your plan will take you to the financial future you’ve been dreaming of.