When Things Go "Bump" in the Night

July 15, 2014

Dave Sathers Money Matters

Be Prepared for Volatility

This past week, investors were bluntly reminded that financial markets can be quite volatile. As we awoke Thursday morning, Banco Espírito Santo announced that loan losses could put the bank at risk for running short on capital.

For Americans, this should have been a non-event. Most of us have never heard of Espírito Santo and are not even aware it is the largest bank in Portugal. For all intents and purposes, Portugal could be the dark side of the moon on most days.

However, on this small shred of news, the Portuguese bank dropped in price by 36% and the ripple effect pulled the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 180 points during the day.

As you digested this news, what did you do? How did you react?

Did you sell? Did you buy? Or, did you just sit tight?

Although the U.S. stock markets have performed amazingly well since 2009, no one should believe that violent volatility is permanently on vacation. This is especially true for traditional fixed income investors who have placed money in the stock markets desperately hoping for a return that will outpace taxes and inflation.

Over the past 85 years the S&P 500 has fallen by at least 20% on twenty different occasions. As such, over long market cycles all stock investors should recognize a 20% drop will happen on average once every 4.25 years. Additionally, over the past fifty years the S&P 500 has dropped as much as 37% in one year and gained more than 50% in one year. It is a bumpy ride.

Compounding matters, consider that over the past year the U.S. stock markets have increased more than 20%--but corporate earnings are up only 2% or 3%. This means investors are paying increasingly more for their investments. As such, market valuations are now in the 95th percentile (they have been more expensive only five percent of the time).

Knowing this, the smart investor will not only expect bouts of significant volatility, but plan to benefit from it. Furthermore, the “trigger” event will most likely be something unexpected. The issues of the past will not be the same culprits in the future.

Additionally, there will be some supposed “expert” claiming they can accurately predict the future. If they can, they have not proven able to do so yet. As such, trying to time the market continues to be a fool’s game.

With this framework, recognize there will be a market correction. It is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

What matters most is why you, and you alone, are investing. Don’t worry about your uncle Harry or your neighbor and don’t worry about what the supposed experts are saying.

Make sure you have at least six months of emergency money available at all times with zero volatility to your principal.

If you are comfortable with the fact that stock market investing is a volatile endeavor requiring immense patience, then remember that owning stock is owning a business. If you own one share of stock, behave as if you own the entire company.

Imagine you own all of HEB, Academy or Blue Bell Creameries and then a bank in Portugal blows up. Are you going to sell your wonderful business at a fire sale price? Of course not. Similarly, if the S&P 500 falls by 20% will the owners of any of these businesses run out the door selling to the first person available? Not a chance.

Finally, ask yourself one last question: if you are investing in publicly traded securities and the market drops, are you willing to buy more of what you own? If not, then you really need to reconsider what you own in the first place.

Rational business owners, of one share or all shares, are patient and focused on what matters most—long term wealth creation. This is true of all businesses—whether private or public.

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Topics: Accounting & Finance

Dave Sather

Sather Financial Group

Dave Sather is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER and President of the Sather Financial Group, Inc. Sather Financial Group is a $400 million “fee-only” wealth management firm based in Victoria. Sather Financial is ranked as one of the top independent wealth management firms in the country according to Financial Advisor Magazine. Dave was raised in El Paso, received his B.A. in Business Management from Texas Lutheran University and received his M.B.A. from Texas A&M University. He has spent the past twenty years in the financial analysis, investment and banking industries. Dave is an adjunct professor in the business program at Texas Lutheran University. Additionally, Dave is a director of Business Bank of Texas as well as the Chairman of the Finance and Investments Committee for the Brownson Children’s Home and is a member of the Executive Advisory Council at Texas Lutheran University. He resides in Victoria, Texas.
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