Speculators lose, long-term investors win
March 8 | Tipps
It’s no secret – those who invest in stocks over a sufficiently long period of time not only achieve positive, but better returns than with bonds, precious metals or time deposits.
Despite this proven fact, many investors get nervous as soon as the stock market drops. The consequences are sudden doubts about the chosen strategy, panic selling or attempts to time the market. However, those who exit prematurely deprive their assets of the opportunity to profit from the long-term strength of the stock markets.
In this article you will learn
- how successfully stocks perform in the long term,
- why many investors still sell early, and
- what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes.
It's a marathon, not a sprint
Anyone who invests in equities to speculate on short-term gains must expect a wide range of fluctuations. Over the last 70 years, the best 12-month period saw a return of +47%, while the weakest period saw a loss of -39% (see chart below – this shows the maximum ranges over a limited period of time).
This volatility decreases significantly with a longer investment period. Those who held on to their stock investments for at least 5 years only fluctuated between -3% and +28%. And anyone who has invested in equities for 20 years at any point in the last 70 years has always come off the floor as the winner, with an annual positive performance of at least +6% to a maximum of +17%. This corresponds to an average annual performance of +11.5%. An initial investment of 100,000€ would thus have resulted in 880,000€ over a 20-year period.
The “return triangle” also paints a similarly positive picture for equities. It shows the annual performance of the MSCI World Index considering all entry and exit scenarios since 1970.
At first glance, it is clear that green tones dominate – the stronger the green, the higher the returns. Very occasionally, and mostly only for short investment periods, you will find red fields with negative performance.
Don’t be put off by the amount of numbers in this chart. To run through different scenarios, simply select an entry point on the vertical Y-axis and a sell point on the horizontal X-axis. The box that combines your two entries contains the annual return you would have achieved with stocks over the period (click on the image to enlarge it).
Uncertainties due to setbacks
While most investors still keep a cool head during the day-to-day fluctuations on the stock markets, doubts begin to surface during longer-lasting setbacks. These are supported by media coverage and gloomy forecasts from so-called crash prophets.
What you need to know is that setbacks during the year (even in the double-digit range) are completely normal and by no means a cause for concern. In the last 42 years, the prices of the S&P 500 fell by an average of 14% during the year. In 32 of the 42 years, however, the stock market year still ended on a positive note.
The following chart illustrates how often a stock market year still ended positively despite lows during the year. The red dots represent the lows in the respective year, while the bars indicate the return at the end of the year.
Example: in the course of 1980, the markets temporarily fell by -17%, but at the end of the year the performance was positive at +26%.
There are a wide variety of reasons for stock market setbacks, some more justified than others. But all setbacks have one thing in common: they are linked to investors’ worries.
Depending on the strength of the setbacks, these worries change until at some point investors only fear about further price drops and the original reason has moved far into the background. Setbacks of this kind tend to be short-lived, as they are not associated with an economic crisis (e.g. financial crisis in 2008) or the bursting of a bubble (e.g. dot-com bubble in the early 2000s).
Why do investors find it difficult to stay invested over the long term?
During bumpier times, many investors lack the patience and also the confidence to stay invested for the long term. If you want to stay calm during these phases, you should consider a few important factors before investing:
Investing the “right” amount
If market fluctuations turn you into a nervous wreck who checks stock market prices several times a day, you should ask yourself whether you have invested too much in stocks. After all, anyone who takes on more risk than they can bear is more susceptible to sleepless nights and knee-jerk reactions.
During the registration process for Estably, we ask you about your financial situation and your investment horizon. We do not offer an investment period of less than 5 years, as it becomes too speculative. If you invest assets that you can live without for the next five, or better ten years, you will remain calm even during weaker stock market phases.
Internalize the investment strategy
If you understand an investment strategy and trust it 100%, you hardly run the risk of selling your portfolio in bad phases by acting rashly. Regardless of whether you invest broadly in the markets using ETFs or we pick out individual stocks for you with our value investing strategy – the more convinced you are of your chosen strategy, the easier it will be for you to stick to it even during a bear market.
On our website and in our information brochure we try to explain the cornerstones of our value investing strategy in an understandable way. For more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail.
By the way: Do you know how we can tell that our customers have internalized our value investing strategy? When stock market prices fall, a value investor thinks about increasing, not selling, his portfolio. Because in most cases, high quality companies are then available at bargain prices!
Your mind plays tricks on you
Especially during major setbacks, there is a great danger of questioning the chosen investment strategy and selling the securities. While these thoughts never arise in positive stock market years, they are more present in more difficult times. This is where our psyche plays tricks on us. Behavioral scientists estimate that financial losses hurt twice as much as gains bring pleasure. According to the “loss aversion theory,” it is more important for an investor to avoid losses than to reap a profit.
In addition, there is the so-called “anchor effect“. Through past performance or benchmark numbers, you unconsciously set expectations for short-term future returns. However, we have already illustrated how these can fluctuate. What counts in the end are the average values, distributed over many years!
How you can succeed investing long-term
We want the best for your assets. With our long-term value investing strategy, this means sticking with it long enough to reap the rewards of this investment philosophy.
To avoid the temptation of unnecessarily diminishing your assets through imprudent action, you can take the following measures:
- Only invest an amount that you can do without for at least five, preferably ten years.
- Internalize our investment strategy and contact us if you have any questions about our strategy.
- Stock prices on the stock market fluctuate widely, but they perform better than other asset classes over the long term (see Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2021).
- Don’t let looking at your portfolio too often drive you crazy.
- Don’t waste time with “ifs, ands and buts” – no one has the crystal ball to predict the future. Have faith in the long-term performance of your business holdings.
- Don’t try to find suitable entry and exit points by supposedly “smart” trading. The broad mass of investors has the same ideas as you, i.e. you would swim with the masses at the wrong time.
- A chart tells you nothing about the right entry or exit time.
Are you ready to invest long-term?
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