As I drove to work this morning, I heard Ray Stevens sing “Guitarzan” followed by The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” It was, shall we say, an eclectic musical morning!
Finding the dichotomy too much to process before the noonday sun, I switched to (Stuart) Varney & Co. on the Fox Business Network. Mr. Varney is native to England; he came to America in 1974 and became an American citizen in 2015. He is unabashedly conservative and pro-Republican — but with that proper British courtesy. He does not run his show with the strident rudeness so prevalent with “talking heads” these days. (Funny that the Talking Heads didn’t come up on the radio this morning, now that I think about it.)
Navigating financial news in 2018
What makes Mr. Varney different from the others? He allows contrary viewpoints to have their say! His show also focuses on business and finance, tending to leave social issues for other venues. This allows me to enjoy the dialog and agree or disagree… without the agita I get from so much of the news media today. Sheesh, I can’t even listen to sports radio anymore without an overdose of drama and politics. It makes me want to tune into the Ray Stevens Channel — and no, there isn’t one to my knowledge so don’t go looking. And don’t write to me quoting the lyrics of “Mr. Businessman” either!
401(k)’s celebrated last year
Mr. Varney made a comment on his show that really stuck with me. He said, “You want a Merry Christmas? Look at your 401(k), there’s your Merry Christmas!” Touché, Stuart… touché.
The S&P 500 returned about 20% in 2017, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average did even better. For the first time in years, international equities outpaced domestic. Bonds were flat — but for the stock market, 2017 feels like “the best of times.” Will it last this year?
Looking back at 1999 and Alan Greenspan’s predictions
Let’s rewind to 1999 for some background. From 1995 to 1999, the S&P 500 had returned 37.2%, 22.68%, 33.1%, 28.34% and 20.89% per year, respectively. Those were some good times in the market, weren’t they? Remember Alan Greenspan? He called it “irrational exuberance” in a speech made on December 5, 1996. He said the phrase came to him while writing a speech in the bathtub. (Oh, the imagery. You’re welcome.)
Anyway — the gentleman I was working with in 1999 was retired from civil service and working in the private sector to improve his retirement picture until he was eligible for Medicare; insurance is an important milestone for many of us. He said that he was going to be fine in retirement and his investments were doing well. He wasn’t greedy; as long as his advisor got him his “20% per year” everything would be fine.
Even then, being a babe in the financial woods, I thought: “Let’s see, he is going to be fine if something continues indefinitely that hasn’t happened in the history of the American stock market. Hmmm…I think I might learn something here.” Another of my friends, the late Bob Robinson, was a citrus grower. He used to say: “Success is not permanent.” Amen to that. I think he was a bit wiser than the first gent.
My main point: Alan Greenspan – who is a lot smarter than me and probably anyone else I know when it comes to monetary policy – was dismayed at the valuation of the US large cap stock market three whole years before a downturn came.
The downturn itself lasted three years, by the way: -9.03%, -11.84%, -21.97% respectively before a positive S&P 500 return came along in 2003.
3 tips for your retirement plan in 2018
So, last week a client and friend asked me when the next downturn is coming. I felt rather strongly that it was coming in 2017. How was that for prognostication?
As 2018 is upon us, you may ask what to do as far as planning your 401(k) and other investments. Is the market too high, or is there room to go higher? Should I make any big changes to my retirement plan in 2018? Here’s my 401k advice for 2018:
- Stay the course you’ve carefully plotted. If you haven’t done this yet, you can work with a local financial advisor to start your journey.
- Make minor course changes as necessary as you regularly evaluate whether your lifetime personal retirement plan is working for you.
- And for goodness’ sake — don’t make long term investment decisions based upon short term data.
Remember to enjoy the journey; it’s too short to not cherish each moment. Happy New Year everyone!
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.