What is different this time and how should investors react to the Coronavirus?
First, note that I didn’t say “how we should react as fellow human beings” to the Coronavirus.
Concerns about health-related issues are always serious and any human suffering should not be taken lightly. Our thoughts and wishes are for everyone to remain healthy and well.
Related to investing, however, keep in mind that the markets have experienced many shocks before, including ones that were health related.
What should investors do?
If you have a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and cash, likely nothing.
We can’t give specific advice without understanding everyone’s situation, but if you have an investment policy statement that sets long-term targets for stocks, bonds and cash, stick to it.
When should you take action?
If you don’t have a diversified plan that is anchored on an Investment Policy Statement, get one.
Investment policy plans don’t need to be complex.
At Fiduciary Wealth Partners, we work with clients to help set long-term investment goals, and establish risk, liquidity and asset allocation targets designed to meet these objectives before we invest (emphasis on “before”).
It’s been our experience that, if you write down goals prior to investing, it is easier to stick to a plan versus letting emotion or the competition of the market take over (we are all human).
An Investment Policy Statement (IPS) can simply set long-term targets for various asset classes and maximum and minimum risk control ranges around the targets. This way, regardless of the emotion of the market, you can keep yourself from making big bets that can turn into big mistakes.
As an example, a moderately risk-adverse investor might consider having a long-term target of 60% in equities with a low-end range of 50% and a high-end range of 70% (generally, the tighter the ranges the greater the risk control).
If the market drops significantly and the equity allocation goes below the minimum range, the IPS mandates that an investor buy. On the other hand, if the market has run up significantly, the maximum IPS ceiling forces selling to take some chips off the table. We recommend evaluating and potentially rebalancing if allocations get off targets by approximately 5%.
For more on how a similar approach, deploying only a few index funds, has consistently outperformed some of the more complex, well-resourced and well-researched strategies in the world in up and down markets, across multiple market cycles, read the following:
More on how Wall Street has a poor record of picking managers and strategies that can outperform in good times or bad, and how they also have a “spectacular zero” percent track record of predicting down turns, can be found in these articles:
In saying all of this, we’re not suggesting that fear about health-related issues are irrational. They can be quite personal and should be taken seriously.
Even though the evidence consistently suggests that market forecasts and hot manager picks might not be worth much, we aren’t saying that you shouldn’t look at data and keep an eye out for opportunities. Data can absolutely help you develop a long-term plan you feel comfortable enough to stick with through both good and bad headlines.
All we’re trying to reinforce is this.
Nothing tends to be different related to the long-term effectiveness of this very old saying about the virtues of a simple diversified plan:
“I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:
Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad.”
Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare