This was an interesting month.
The stock markets seem to have regained their confidence this month and have rewarded investors accordingly. In January alone, the total US market returned about 8.7%, and the non-US market returned about 7.5%. Meanwhile, between October and December of last year, the total US market declined by 14.8% and the non-US market declined 12.6%. I believe that the last 4 months present a teachable moment for many novice (and/or not-so-novice) investors.
As scary as it might have been to watch your assets drop 10-20% over the course of a few months, it’s important to not overreact or panic and make a rash decision to sell. Furthermore, it’s also important to ignore the financial media, as its interests are not aligned with yours. From October to December last year, I’m sure there were thousands of articles, social media posts, and news alerts constantly proclaiming that the market was crashing, featuring talking heads with worried expressions backed by grim red-colored charts. Supposedly there’s a saying in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads,” referring to how stories featuring uncertainty and fear drive up sales. While this may have originally referred to actual violence and/or disasters, it’s also applicable to finance. It’s human nature to pay more attention to things that appear dangerous, and the media uses this to its advantage. If one’s fears are stoked high enough, one might act recklessly in a desperate attempt at self-preservation. In investing, however, this is exactly the opposite behavior you should have. Down markets are where the bulk of future returns are to be found, especially if the price drops without a corresponding drop in actual earnings. While no one can reliably predict when market price declines (or spikes) will start or finish, it’s important not to let the market’s movements influence your investing behavior. More often than not, your actions will reduce your returns over time, and thus doom yourself to unnecessarily more time and risk before reaching your ultimate goals. Instead, take deep breaths, stay the course, and maybe use this as a convenient time to rebalance your portfolio (a process which forces you to sell high and buy low), or harvest losses for tax purposes. You’ll be better off for it sooner or later.
Alright, enough preaching. On to the numbers.
Projected time to FI (assuming 6% growth and 4% withdrawal rate): 5 years, 3 months.