Don’t Fear the Correction

fearAt of the end of June, the Standard & Poors 500 index has completed 32 full months without a correction of 10% or more. We are living in a remarkably long bull market; the average time span without a full-blown correction is just 18 months. Since the last correction in September of 2011, the S&P 500 has gained 75%, threatening the remarkable 100% advance that began in March of 2003 and lasted until the market peaked in October of 2007.

Today, as the S&P moves near the 2,000 level, as the small cap Russell 2000 and the Nasdaq index both reach record highs, it may be a good time to prepare for that inevitable correction down the road. It may take the market down 10% or, worse, reach the technical definition of a full market correction, which is a downward move of 20% or more.

Prepare how? First, it helps to recognize that every market has pullbacks, and that these are a normal part of stock market behavior. Since the Great Recession lows in March 2009, the S&P index has experienced nine different corrections, ranging in magnitude from 6% to more than 21%.

Second, it helps to recognize that these pullbacks are almost totally unpredictable. Knowing there will be a pullback doesn’t tell us when or help us maximize returns. If we take money out of the market today, on the certainty that a pullback is coming, we are just as likely to miss another year or two of upward movements as we are of sidestepping an immediate downturn. Nor do we know how long the downturn will last. Add in trading costs and taxes, and the decision to guess when to step out of the market, and back in gain, is not likely to add value in the long run.

Third, recognize now that the next unpredictable correction will look blindingly obvious in hindsight. It will seem like everybody but you knew in advance what was coming and when. In reality, what you’ll be hearing is reporters quoting the same few people over and over again, people who confidently predicted that a downturn was nigh and turned out to be right. Look a bit more deeply than the reporters do, and you’ll find that this small number of people had been predicting that the end was nigh over and over and over again for years.

Finally, realize that inaction is actually taking strong and unusual action. People who simply kept their money in stocks during each of the market downturns ended up seeing the indices reach new highs once the correction had run its course. Strong long-term investors benefit from the incremental daily, weekly, monthly efforts of millions of workers who come into the offices, factories and warehouses and build the value of their companies.

People will change their opinions about what stocks are worth, but in general, over time, the value of most companies will rise to the extent that those workers add value during their workdays. When people lose faith in that value, as they will when the next correction hits, it will put stocks on sale and give the rest of us an opportunity to buy in at lower prices–if we have the courage to separate ourselves from the herd.



About Objectively Speaking

Tom Batterman, founder of Vigil Trust & Financial Advocacy and Financial Fiduciaries, LLC is in the business of representing the best financial interests of his clients. Having provided objective, fee-only financial management services for over two decades, he specializes in managing the investment and related financial affairs of individuals and mutual insurance companies who do not have the time, interest or expertise to manage such matters on their own. As an objective, unbiased professional who takes on a fiduciary responsibility to his clients, he guides clients to the financial decisions they would make themselves if they had years of training and experience and the time and expertise to fully research and understand all of their options. Founded in 2010 as an outgrowth of Vigil Trust & Financial Advocacy, Financial Fiduciaries, LLC is a financial management solution for individuals and mutual insurance companies who recognize they do not have the time, interest or expertise to properly attend to their financial matters on their own. While there are many financial “advisors”, most of them have investment products to sell and the “advice” they provide is geared toward getting their clients to engage in a purchase. As one of the rare subset of advisors known as “fiduciary advisors”, Financial Fiduciaries does not sell any investment product so its guidance is not compromised by conflicts of interest which plague ordinary advisors. Prior to his employment in the financial industry in financial advocacy and trust positions, he worked at a private law practice in the Wausau area in the areas of estate planning, tax, retirement planning, corporate organizations and real estate. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UW-Madison Law School and has during his career held Series 7, 24 and 65 securities licenses. A longtime resident of the Wausau, Wisconsin Area, Tom is active in the community. He enjoys golf, curling, skiing, fishing, traveling and spending time with his family.
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2 Responses to Don’t Fear the Correction

  1. What’s the point of this article? Stay fully invested in equities? That’s very old news. The last recession vaporized jobs and wealth and it has taken 7 years to recover the jobs lost in the recession. There is no hedge to protect againt this. It is part of the system.

    • We are really simply trying to warn people that a correction may be coming because it has been so long since we’ve had one. For people who are investing in stocks in traditional ways, the best alternative is indeed to remain invested in stocks and ride out the peaks and valleys. Hopefully such individuals have properly adjusted for the risks inherent in that approach by properly controlling their overall exposure to that risk – something we call “asset allocation”.

      There are also new, innovative ways to protect against those risks which have the effect of diminishing the angst one might otherwise feel concerning a possible correction. For example, check out information on our site or give us a call to discuss our Equity Risk Control approach to being exposed to the opportunity of the stock market.

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