The last 18 months have not been kind to investors in the stock markets. Depending on which period you are looking at, there have been severe corrections, across all market-caps. When mid and small-cap indices fell severely from their Jan 2018 highs, large-cap indices still held on and posted marginal gains. But post the budget presented in July 2019, they too have thrown in the towel.
So, how badly has equities done, and how much has it actually impacted investors? To put things in perspective, a diversified multi-cap index portfolio has fallen approximately 12%, both from the market peak in January 2018 (approx. 18 months back) as well as from the recovery peak in August 2018 (approx. 12 months back). The below table gives the details.
Of course, this varies across market capitalizations, with large-caps still managing to hold on, losing only between 4-9%, mid-caps dropping 18-22% and small-caps plummeting as much as 28-40%.
So, in such a situation, what should one do? Is the market likely to drop further, and if yes, should one exit one’s portfolios? Are equities not the right asset class to invest now?
There are enough and more market news and views answering the above questions, with necessarily no improvement in clarity post reading them. I do not intend to add more to this confusion by also pitching in. Rather, in my view, the best thing to do in such situations is to go back to the “wise men” and learn from them on how to handle such situations. So, let’s see what five such wise men have to say.
You get recessions, you have stock market declines. If you don’t understand that’s going to happen, then you are not ready, you won’t do well in the markets – Peter Lynch
The first lesson is about having the right attitude to invest in equity. Be prepared to travel the roller-coaster ride that it will take in the short term and to be unpleasantly surprised despite precautions. Building the temperament needed to invest in the stock markets takes time, so invest only what you can bear and slowly increase it over time as you get comfortable.
The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything but the value of nothing – Benjamin Graham
Markets gyrate excessively, basis the laws of demand and supply, which in turn are driven by sentiment, fueled by a continuous dose of “news”. If you have the temperament and the knowledge, volatility can be an opportunity. That said, timing the market is tough and not advised and for the average retail investor, these are the times when your SIPs and STPs MUST continue, and if possible, topped-up, to take advantage of rupee-cost averaging.
Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked – Warren Buffett
When markets take a dive, the natural response from a retail investor, even some of the experienced ones, is to sell the stocks (or funds) that are holding on while retaining the stocks that have crashed, since they want to “wait for it come back up”.
It is pertinent though to remember that in good markets, even the mediocre performers get “swept up by the tide”. It is when markets go down that these average performers get called out. Also remember, every growth cycle has a different set of dominant contributors. So, use downturns to get rid of your not-so-good stocks while retaining the ones that are still good, thereby building a future-ready portfolio. While the urge to wait for markets to come back up is high, remember, that the good stocks by then would have run up even more.
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent – Charlie Munger
Building a good, long-term, high-quality portfolio takes time and requires pain-staking effort. Make sure you are taking advice from a qualified investment advisor, whose interests are aligned to yours. But once done, sit back and enjoy the view. The key to benefiting from good equity investments is allowing them time to grow and compound. So, stay the course, and don’t take recourse to stupidity, such as exiting perfectly good portfolios just because the prices are down.
If you don’t know who you are, the stock market is an expensive place to find out – George J W Goodman
Lastly, investing in equity without having sight of what you are hoping to achieve, and over what time-frame, is fraught with risk. The danger is that since you do not know either, you will tend to over-track and get impacted by short-term volatility and performance. Anchor your investments to a goal, and you will suddenly see the big picture, and will not get swayed by what happens during the journey. A good financial planner will help you identify the right investments for your goals and will also help you course-correct over time, and ensure that your portfolio is always future-prepared, thereby allowing you to have peace-of-mind and enjoy the present.
In summary, use the below 5 inferences as guard-rails to both smoothen as well as make safe your equity investing ride.
1. Build the temperament to invest in equity, by gradually increasing your investments
2. Volatility is good. Ride it out, and if anything, use it in your favour through your SIPs
3. Use downturns to clean up your portfolio and make it future-prepared
4. Once you have a future-ready portfolio, stay the course, and avoid short-term decisions
5. Finally, know why you are investing. Anchor your investments to your goals
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay