Eight tips to consider in times of volatility
Share markets have come under more pressure in the past week. From their all-time highs to their lows in the last few days US shares have fallen 24%, global shares have fallen 21% and Australian shares have fallen 14%. As has been the case all year, the key drivers remain high and still rising inflation as seen in the US late last week, central banks stepping up the pace of interest rate hikes as seen by both the RBA and the US Federal Reserve in the last two weeks and the risk that this will trigger a recession. We remain of the view that a recession can be avoided but the risks have increased significantly and it’s still too early to say that shares have bottomed. In this environment of heightened uncertainty these eight tips for investing are particularly relevant in times of volatility:
Compound interest is magical! The value of $1 invested in 1900, allowing for the reinvestment of dividends and interest along the way, by the end of May would have been worth $243 if invested in cash, $901 if invested in bonds and $757,136 if invested in shares. (Of course this is pre-tax and fees but the relativities remain the same.) The higher end point for shares reflects their higher long-term return. So, to grow our wealth we need to have a long-term exposure to growth assets like shares.
Sharp falls in share markets as we are now seeing are not nice, but they are a regular occurrence and are the price we pay for the higher returns they provide over the longer term compared to assets like cash and bonds. The key is to recognise that these setbacks are part of the cycle. So the key is to not get thrown off by the higher returns that shares and other growth assets provide over the longer-term by cyclical falls.
The best performing asset class each year can vary dramatically – last year’s top performer is no guide to the year ahead. Have a combination of asset classes in your portfolio. This particularly applies to assets that have low correlation, i.e., that don't just move in lock step with each other. A well-diversified portfolio is less volatile.
Put simply: the higher the risk of an asset, the higher the return you should expect to achieve over the long-term, and vice versa. There is no free lunch, and you should always allow for the risk and return characteristics of each asset in which you invest. If you don’t mind short-term risk, you can take advantage of the higher-returns growth assets offer over long periods.
In times of uncertainty like the present it’s tempting to try to time the market. But without a proven asset allocation or stock picking process, it’s next to impossible. Market timing is great if you can get it right, but without a process, the risk of getting it wrong is very high and can destroy your longer-term returns. Selling after big share market falls can feel comfortable given all the noise is negative but it locks in a loss and makes it much harder to recover from.
Since 1900 there are no negative returns over rolling 20-year periods for Australian shares. Short-term share returns can sometimes see violent swings, but the longer the time horizon the greater the chance your investments will meet their goals. In investing, time is on your side, so invest for the long-term.
Emotion plays a huge roll in amplifying the investment cycle, both up and down. Avoid assets where the crowd is euphoric and convinced it’s a sure thing. Favour assets where the crowd is depressed, and the asset is under-loved. Don’t get sucked into the emotional roller coaster.
It seems there’s plenty for investors to worry about at the moment. While this is real and creates uncertainty, in a long-term context it’s mostly noise. The global and Australian economies have had plenty of worries over the past century, but they got over them. Australian shares have returned 11.8 per cent per annum since 1900. It’s best to turn down the noise around the short-term movements in investment markets.
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