Hi, and welcome back to the latest edition of Informed Decisions Financial Planning Blog & Podcast! This week we are sharing with you an article we wrote for The Sunday Times, which ironcially appeared in the paper on April Fool's Day 2018!
Here is the article below. We hope it conveys what is our philosophy in respect of achieving long term financial success. Keep it simple, hold firm, and look beyond the temporary declines.....................................
"Optimism is the madness of insisting all is well when we are miserable.
These words are reported to have come from Voltaire, the acclaimed French writer and philosopher. I am neither a Frenchman or a philosopher but I would like to put forward the suggestion that Optimism is actually the only way! When backed by concrete evidence it is the only rational belief to have, particularly so when it comes to investing your money over the long term.
This piece aims to convey the rationale for such a belief whether you are savings €100 per month into a savings or pension plan, or have €10 million invested in a well diversified equity portfolio. This is not a debate about the virtues of owning equities over commodities, or for indeed property. Developing and nurturing this belief is the single most important attribute to have in achieving long term investment success. We can't predict the future values of equities, nobody can. The future is always uncertain, however it is rational and human to base our expectations and beliefs on what has gone before.
Firstly please allow me to confirm that optimism does not equate to sentiment. The Consumer Sentiment Index hit a 17-year high in January of this year. This suggests that as a nation we feel confident about the outlook for the economy, right now. This sentiment is a fickle thing which changes constantly based on our environment, it is not an over-arching belief.
Optimism, in this instance is an over-arching belief. It is a belief based on evidence. This evidence shows long term growth of the 'equity market' is upward only in its trajectory. While our industry might like to mystify and complicate things the 'equity market' is nothing more than the value of the World's profit-generating companies.
The basis for this belief is supported by a vast ocean of evidence. One recent piece of credible and researched evidence to refer to is 'The Rate of Return on Everything, 1870 - 2015, produced by five economists including Oscar Jorda of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Katharina Knoll from the Deutsche Budesbank - examined the return on all asset classes in 16 developed countries over that 145-year period. It found equities returned 10.75% a year over that time. That is, more than 10% annual growth every year, on average, for almost a century & a half.
There were, of course, years where the return was negative 20-40% over that time period. Investors must learn to accept this fact, for it is these temporary declines in values that deliver such impressive returns for the investor who does stay the course. Those who cannot stay the course in the face of these temporary declines ultimately pay the price for their pessimism. Enabling you to stay the course is where a credible financial advisor can pay for themselves many time over, their value far exceeding their cost, but only if that relationship is build on mutual respect and trust! History has shown that over the long term a well diversified equity portfolio has delivered far in excess of inflation, which is ultimately the curve most investors strive to stay ahead of, otherwise they are losing money.
If the world's companies is your investment of choice then there is much to be optimistic about based on current trends. According to the World Bank 42% of the world's population was defined as living in extreme poverty in 1990. As of 2016 the World Bank suggest the percentage in extreme poverty has fallen to below 10%, meaning 90% of the ever growing population now have more disposable income, and can purchase the produce and services they desire. Who benefits from this expenditure? The companies of the world who provide them with goods and services. The same companies form the 'equity market' which investors can be owners of when they purchase a well diversified equity portfolio. In addition, research by Brookings suggest that 140 million people are exiting poverty and entering middle-class each and every year on this planet. That's nearly 3million people per week with ore disposable income.
There will be another equity market crash, the evidence has shown that volatility is part and parcel of the journey. A period of temporary market decline is never more than a few years away....but learn to accept that, to welcome it, to see beyond it, and recognise that the 'markets' reward those who believe that declines are temporary, nothing more and nothing less. The 10% returns mentioned earlier were achieved despite many global crises, many dark days, many wars, and many self confessed experts predicting that this time the world really was going to end!
Please excuse me if I conclude by contorting Voltaire ever so slightly and suggest that.......madness is insisting that all is miserable when all is well!!
Optimism is the way...."
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