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Doom and Bloom, Recession or Nah?

light under dark sky

We're in the mist of a decade-long bull run, one of the most impressive stock market rises in history. When times are booming, doomsday predictions tend to dominate the headlines.

"Markets hit all-time-high, sign of an oncoming collapse?"

"A recession is overdue, we're getting closer."

Yes, as time passes we get closer to the next recession. It's very easy to say we're closing in on something because that's how time works. The difficult part is knowing exactly when it'll happen.

People are terrible at predicting recessions. Paul Samuelson (Nobel prize winning economist), in 1966 joked that declines in U.S. stock prices had correctly predicted 9 of the last 5 American recessions, and his profession would kill for such accuracy.

A study by the IMF found from 1992-2014, of 153 national recessions, only 5 were predicted by a consensus of private-sector economists in April of the previous year. That's ~3% success rate.

At the end of 2018, recession fears were high and investors pulled billions from the stock market. These investors wanted to get out before their investments "crashed". The reverse actually happened, the stock market rebounded strong and investors missed out on tremendous growth. A correction will happen eventually, but markets can rise much more before it does, you never know.

Investment decisions based on market cycle predictions is known as market timing. Unless you have a fully-functioning crystal ball, market timing is impractical.

Market timing requires you to be correct on both sides of the transaction. You need to be able to sell at the top of the market and buy back at the bottom. Getting one side of the equation right is hard enough, getting both sides right is near-impossible. Now add in the fact that you'll have to be right on both sides consistency, near-impossible becomes impossible.

Due to the difficulties of market timing, active investors tend to employ the poor, yet widely-utilized buy high, sell low strategy. Their performance suffers and portfolio dwindles. Not to mention they waste effort and suffer the psychological toll of trying to predict the future. Trying to time the market is what turns investing into gambling.

Implementing a buy-and-hold strategy allows you to avoid the hassles of market timing. Investing long-term will allow you capture market gains and minimize wealth destroying mistakes. You'll just need to accept there will be times of market declines. Successful investing is about having the stomach to handle the tough moments, not about having the brains to be able to time them.

Save your money, invest regularly, ignore the noise, think long-term and you'll be on track to financial success. Time in the market is superior to timing the market.

“Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.” – Peter Lynch


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