Why do we invest in the stock market? To make money so we can improve our standard of living, right? Notice that we aren’t investing just to get our money back. If we simply wanted our money back, we would place the money in a savings account at a bank where we would likely be able to access it any time and know that we could redeem it at full value. However, making money is better than simply getting our invested dollars back, so there has to be a trade off for receiving that additional benefit.
Of course, the trade off is that investing in the market involves more risk than simply depositing money in a bank account. The additional return that is required by investors for investing in an asset that could potentially lose money is called the equity risk premium. There must be a reward for taking more risk with one’s money. Otherwise, no one would ever deposit money into the more secure bank account and people would always invest in the stock market generating superior returns. Unfortunately, this would make things too easy, and as we have learned our whole lives, the easier a goal is the less reward we get for achieving that goal. That is why positions that can only be filled by a select few individuals with rare talents (CEOs, doctors, Lebron James) are handsomely compensated.
By now, most people know that over a sufficiently lengthy period of time, the stock market has historically produced returns of approximately 10% per year. This seems like a simple and easy way to make money, so why don’t all investors buy stocks and hold them for extended periods of time? The fact that we aren’t all rich suggests that buying stocks and allowing the market time to do its thing isn’t easy. This is because enduring risk and suffering losses creates negative emotions that get the best of many investors, causing them to sell at the wrong time and stop investing new dollars.
Yet, when we refer back to the concept that the tougher the task the larger the reward, we should be happy that buying and holding stocks isn’t easy because it makes the strategy more profitable. For this reason, the next time the market goes through a correction or even a crash, wise investors should be grateful. Market volatility causes unsuccessful investors to sell when prices are down and increases the rewards for those who can stick with their investment strategy by holding their assets or even buying new positions.
Supply and demand suggests that when the markets are decreasing in value, more people are selling assets than buying. The people who are selling their investments at a loss create an equity risk premium for those who can endure market volatility. This increases the reward for successful investors by both providing an opportunity to buy assets when they are inexpensive, and reminding the marketplace that investing in volatile positions is unpleasant. Of course, things that are unpleasant aren’t easy to accomplish, which means there is a large benefit for achieving those things.
Thus, market corrections are great for successful investors because it is volatility and easily-rattled buy-and-sell investors that enable buy-and-hold investors to make significant profits over the long term. In fact, it wouldn’t be possible for stock market investors to make money without periodic intervals of unpleasantness as it is this discomfort which causes some investors to sell and creates an equity risk premium for the rest of us.
It has been easy for investors to buy and hold for the last six years as the market has been nothing but accommodating since early 2009. However, when things get too easy, it reduces our reward for being a long-term investor because everyone can do it. For this reason, we need the market to experience a correction at some point to shake out the unsuccessful investors, causing them to sell assets and create an equity risk premium once more.
When the next correction occurs, you can either sell assets and create a risk premium for others, or you can stay invested and take advantage of the money unsuccessful investors leave on the table. Successful investors with a sufficiently lengthy investment time horizon remind themselves of this concept frequently so that when the market experiences a decline they are not overcome by fear but rather grateful for the opportunity provided by the short-sighted.
Lon Jefferies is an investment advisor representative with Net Worth Advisory Group, a fee-only financial planning and investment advisory firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in developing custom financial plans, implementing investment strategies, and providing ongoing support and service in order to help clients reach their financial goals. He can be contacted at (801) 566-0740 or [email protected]. Visit the Net Worth Advisory Group website at.