Cost of NOT staying in the market
We have often talked about the importance of staying in the market. Think long-term. Stick with it, through the good and bad markets, to reap the long-term benefits that investing in stocks can provide.
It can be hard to remain invested in stocks (appropriate to your personal stock allocation), especially when stocks are declining. It can be particularly difficult to remain invested in stocks during periods of great uncertainty, such as in the spring of 2020, at the onset of the Covid pandemic, or in 2008-09, during the Great Financial Crisis.
We want to share some thoughts and data with you, while markets are good….so you can be mentally prepared the next time markets decline significantly in the future.
Missing only a few days of strong returns can drastically impact your overall investment performance.
While we recommend a global and broadly diversified allocation mix of stocks, for purposes of this discussion, we are using the S&P 500 Index, from January 1, 1990 – December 31, 2020. Note that the companies in the S&P 500 Index are primarily US Large companies, and the companies in the Index change over time, as the economy changes, as companies grow, merge, are bought or their financial performance declines and they are removed from the Index.
As the chart below reflects, if a hypothetical $1,000 was invested in the S&P 500 in January 1990, it would have grown to $20,451 by the end of 2020. The increase over this 30 year period, including all kinds of economic and societal changes, most of which could NOT have been anticipated in advance.
- Staying invested and focused on the long term would help you to better capture the benefits that the stock market has to offer.
However, if you had missed only a few of the best performing days during this 30 year period, the growth of the $1,000 would be dramatically less. If you had missed the best 25 days over the last 30 years, $1,000 would have only grown to $4,376, which is only 21% of what you would have had if you had left the money in the S&P 500 the entire period. Let’s review the results**:
There is no proven way to time the markets – trying to target the best days and to get out of the markets to avoid the worst days. History argues for staying put through the good times and the bad.
We further reviewed the best 15 days of the last 30 years of the S&P 500, which are provided in chronological (date) order, in the table below. There are a few key lessons to be learned from these large daily increases:
- The significant daily gains all occurred during times of great uncertainty and fear among investors, during periods of great volatility.
- They occurred in three groups, days in 2002 (during the tech meltdown and during a number of corporate scandals, including the Enron crisis), 2008-09, and in the spring of 2020, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- None of the top 15 days occurred during times of relative calm for the US stock markets.
- None of the top 15 days occurred during times when markets had been rising for a few years.
- Some of the days were during bursts of market rebounds, shortly after a bottom had been reached (but few would have known it was the real the bottom at that time).
- However, a number of the days occurred during huge downturns, but the markets continued to decline even further after these large gain days, before they eventually recovered.
Financial history teaches us that is important to be patient and stay the course during times of economic crises, when stocks are falling, to reap their long-term benefits.
We do not know when financial markets will next incur a significant decline. Hopefully reviewing data like this, when we are not in the midst of a scary period of stock decline, will provide you with the mental fortitude to adhere to your planned stock allocation when future downturns occur.