Knowing Your Number Can Prepare You for a Bear Market
The stock market hit new highs this month. Yet many investors remain undeniably gloomy.
Economic expansions and bull markets don’t die of old age. (Just ask any Australian under the age of 28; that country hasn’t seen a recession since 1991.) But with the bull market plowing through its tenth year, many market watchers are ready to leap on any signal—such as the yield curve inversions we saw earlier this year—that hints a turn for the worse is on the horizon.
Perhaps, then, it’s a good time to think about what an investor should do when the bear starts to roar. Or in other words, what’s your number? By “number,” we don’t mean how big you want your portfolio to be heading into retirement. Rather, what dollar-value or percentage decline in your investment accounts would send you running for the hills?
After all, the standard definition of a bear market is a drop of 20% from a recent high. That’s enough to take a million-dollar portfolio down to $800,000. And while 20% may be the minimum decline that defines when the market has turned from bull to bear, most bear markets see deeper nadirs. On average, the peak-to-valley during past bear markets has been 35%, a hit that would take that million-dollar portfolio all the way down to $650,000.
Dips like that are enough to make any investor’s eyes water. But does that mean that the right thing to do is lock in gains now and retreat to more conservative investment strategies? Not necessarily.
There’s a reason we here at Adviser Investments suggest that it’s time in the market, not market timing, that makes the difference. Because while the market tends to eventually recover from dips, it doesn’t do so smoothly. And while all those herks and jerks can make for a bumpy ride, missing out on even just a few of the short-term jumps can do long-term damage to your portfolio.
How so? Consider the chart below. The darker blue line shows the returns you’d have earned by investing $10,000 in the S&P 500 Index just under 30 years ago (with dividends reinvested). The bright blue line? That same $10,000 investment in the S&P, but missing just 10 days of gains—the market’s 10 best single-day returns.
That simple difference was enough to put a $77,000 dent in our market-timing portfolio. An investor who didn’t move a muscle during the good times and bad would have turned their $10,000 investment into $153,816 in 30 years. But take out the 10 best days, and that same $10,000 becomes only $76,763—less than half the gains.
Of course, it would take some improbable luck to miss all 10 of these positive outliers, just as it would be equally improbable you’d be able to get in and out of the markets for the worst days over time.
But it does show the danger in trying to time the markets: Being even a day or two late to the party when good times return can mean you miss out on a large proportion of the market’s positive performance in recovery.
Risk is a fact of life for every investor; finding a level of risk you’re comfortable with is what’s key. And it’s not every investor who has the luxury of waiting a half a decade or more for stocks to recover from a crash. If the prospect of a decline in the value of your portfolio is keeping you up at night, it may be time to reach for a phone instead of an antacid tablet and talk with a financial adviser.
They can help you look at the broader questions—your needs, your goals, and how they compare with your overall portfolio. As your life changes, your investment goals will change, too.
To learn more about how to deal with the possibility of a portfolio decline, click here to listen to Chairman Dan Wiener and Director of Research Jeff DeMaso discuss the topic in the What’s Your Number? episode of The Adviser You Can Talk To Podcast.
Vanguard to Offer Private Equity Investments?
A new report in The Wall Street Journal this week has raised some eyebrows among longtime Vanguard observers: The low-cost leader is said to be working on a private equity offering for some of its high-net worth investors.
According to the Journal, the Malvern, Pa.-based fund giant has been in talks with several firms, including HarbourVest Partners in Boston and Pantheon Ventures in London.
Private equity isn’t entirely new territory for the firm. They attempted a to launch such a fund-of-private-equity-funds in the early 2000s, but abandoned the idea after failing to raise the planned initial stake in the wake of the dot-com bust.
Private equity funds typically charge much higher fees than Vanguard’s usual offering—and if prior history is anything to go by, this new product is likely to as well. Their prior venture involved a partnership with Hamilton Lane Advisors, LLC, a Bala Cynwyd, PA, private-equity adviser. Vanguard charged a fee of 0.85% for the fund-of-funds, with Hamilton Lane taking 0.50% to Vanguard’s 0.35%.
Numbers like that—to say nothing of the $500,000 minimum investment the older product required—are a far cry from the low-cost, no-fuss funds for the ordinary investor on which Vanguard built its reputation. But that may well be the point.
Vanguard remains the leader in passive investing; just last month, it saw $16.7 billion in inflows according to Morningstar, nearly triple that of runner-up Fidelity’s $5.1 billion. (And that during a month when the fund industry as a whole was down slightly, with long-term funds overall seeing $2.0 billion in outflows.)
Why private equity now? Chairman Tim Buckley is working hard to enhance the firm’s appeal to deep-pocketed institutions and individuals. With low interest rates a fixture and exciting IPOs few and far between, such investors’ attention is increasingly drawn to alternative investments like private equity. (It may also explain the firm’s decision to further diversify its offerings in recent months by launching actively managed ESG funds as well as a commodities fund.)
Buckley has said in interviews that Vanguard will only enter new sectors if the firm thinks it can provide a superior product. But can Vanguard truly apply their low-fee style to the private equity sector?
Most traditional private equity funds charge annual fees of 1% to 3%, and often take a cut of any profits produced by the investment as well. Any fund-of-private-equity funds product has such margins baked in to its costs, even if the offering to investors itself charges lower fees.
At Adviser Investments, we still take Vanguard founder John Bogle’s lessons to heart, and believe that the higher the fees, the tougher it is for a manager to beat the market. We’re wary of any product, even from Vanguard, that promises different.
Vanguard Commodity Strategy Fund Opens to Investors
This week, Vanguard opened its new Commodity Strategy fund to investors. As expected, the fund is only available in Admiral shares, requires a $50,000 initial investment and carries a 0.20% expense ratio.
We covered the fund and the commodity space in more detail in April this year, when the fund was first announced to the public. In short, we’re not certain that Vanguard Commodity Strategy will be a good fit for most investors, but please click here to read more.
About Adviser Investments
Adviser Investments operates as an independent, professional wealth management firm with expertise in Fidelity and Vanguard funds, actively managed mutual funds, ETFs, fixed-income investing, tactical strategies and financial planning. Our investment professionals focus on helping individual investors, trusts, foundations and institutions meet their investment goals. Our minimum account size is $350,000. For the sixth consecutive year, Adviser Investments was named to Barron’s list of the top 100 independent financial advisers nationwide and its list of the top advisory firms in Massachusetts in 2018. We have also been recognized on the Financial Times 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
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