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Be safe

Be safe

Anyone with teenage kids knows how worrisome it is when they head out for an evening. I suspect, as they are walking out the door, you have said the same two words we said many times: “Be safe”.

And I bet you never said the following:

  • You haven’t crashed the car so far, so no worries – have a blast!
  • That new Ferrari has great air bags. Pedal to the metal!
  • Your buddy Jim can sure handle his beer. Let him drive.

When it comes to family, safe means safe. No compromise.

When it comes to investing, a lot of people are willing to cut corners.

Plenty of investors seem convinced that a stock paying a high dividend is safe, because, hey, you’ll get the dividend even if the stock price goes down. (In fact, in 2009, as the “great recession” took hold, over 50% of listed dividend-paying companies globally reduced or eliminated their dividend.) Many people also think they can buy “high yield bonds” for that extra income without recognizing these are exactly the companies that will default in the next recession.

But the worst mistake we see: “My advisor / some smart fund manager / a big hedge fund can pick the stocks and bonds that will survive the next downturn.”

Don’t kid yourself (pun intended). If you want to keep a portion of your investments in truly safe assets, your choices are cash, US government bonds and high-quality corporate bonds. Crisis after crisis has shown those to be the only reliable stores of value.

You may not need a big financial cushion. If you’re young and have years of employment in front of you, you only need a cushion that lasts as long as it takes to get another job. If pension and Social Security income cover most of your retirement expenses, you also don’t need a lot of cushion.

But most people do.

We’re in a 9-year “bull market”. The stock market seems like it will only go up. The economy seems strong. That will all change at some stage, with absolutely no warning.

Do you have a cushion so that you don’t have to sell stock in the midst of a crisis?

As my wife and I said many times to our son and daughter … be safe.

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