With your investing and financial planning - expect something unexpected.
If you understand that the future will look different than the past, you stand a far better chance of achieving your financial goals.
We have just had a remarkable 10 years of investing.
US stocks returned almost 17% annually over that period. In other words, in a decade, $100 grew to $465.
Non-US stocks didn't do badly either: up almost 8% annually.
All this happened at a time when inflation was low.
If you are expecting the next decade to be similar, you're likely to be disappointed.
Let me be clear: I am not forecasting an imminent market crash. I have no idea if or when the market will fall or by how much. No one else does either.
But, the last 10 years were so much better than average that it would be unrealistic to expect more of the same. US stocks over the past century went up 10% annually, on average – far less than what we experienced recently.
What should you do with this information?
- Make sure you are not taking too much risk. A good way to measure risk is what percentage stocks make up of your overall investments. If that percentage has crept higher than you originally intended, pare it back.
- Don't ignore bonds just because their returns are low. They play two important roles. They are a store of value, if needed, when the stock market is falling. They also help you sleep better at night, knowing not every investment is at risk.
- Review your financial plan. If your spending depends on continued rocketing stock prices, develop a plan B – a plan where you can achieve your goals even if returns are lower. In our client plans, we continue to assume significantly lower returns. That's not a prediction. It's a precaution.
From 2000-2010, US stocks made no money. It's rare, but it can happen. That decade included a couple very bad years for stock market investors – years when some investors sold in a panic, creating losses that damaged their financial plan.
Being prepared with solid investing and financial planning, you can survive the downturns and be ready for the good times. Historically, there's plenty more good than bad in the stock market. But the good and bad times often come when you least expect them.