For investors who like roller-coaster rides, the beginning of 2023 must have felt like a trip to Six Flags. The markets were full of so many twists, turns, ups and downs that people were jumping out of their cars right and left.
Jumping out of a moving roller coaster is never advisable, but considering all the fear people were feeling about a faltering economy, craziness in Washington, and a world at war, you can see why so many investors wanted out.
But long-term investing is a lot like reading a book or watching a movie. You have to stay with them to know how they turn out, and investors who held on in 2023 were rewarded with a happy ending, seeing the S&P 500 up 20% for the year.
Riding a roller coaster is an emotional experience, and that’s what makes them fun. A few minutes of fear and excitement and you’re grateful to be back on solid ground. While long-term investing might seem like riding a roller coaster, there really is no similarity.
Successful, long-term investors follow their plans, not their emotions. They know financial markets will be volatile from time to time, but that’s just part of the journey, which can last a lifetime. And they know that the amount of time they spend in the market is important because the longer they stay in, the probability of a negative return decreases.
So, looking back on the year, 2023 started with plenty of negative news along with large helpings of scary commentary predicting recessions, joblessness, and continuing inflation. Some people yielded to the fear, cashed in, and put their money in safe havens with little risk and little reward.
They believed they could climb back into the market when conditions got better, but seasoned investors know that timing the market can be as futile as catching one of those roller coasters. By the time they see better conditions have arrived, the bull market has already passed them by and is screaming down the track. The saddest part is that those who opted out for a 5% money market investment could have finished the year with five times more than what they earned, and that is wealth they will never recover.
So, as we continue our investment journey into 2024, we should avoid the prognosticators, the doomsayers and the pundits who try to predict what’s over the horizon. Because the evidence tells us that no one knows what markets will do from month to month. And when the world is rocked by wars, politics, and economic turbulence, it might help to look outside.
You’ll see trucks hauling goods, trains carrying freight, and hungry consumers crowding into drive-through lines across America. That’s what it looks like when money is in motion, and when money is moving, our economy is working.
And remember that roller coasters can be full of surprises and so can markets, but motion and turbulence are part of life, and the only way to climb higher is to keep moving.