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Weekend reading: Congratulations if you stayed the course with shares

Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

Regular readers will know I’ve long warned people not to get scared out of equities over the past few years.

With the emblematic US Dow Index touching the “psychologically important” (i.e. headline spouting) 14,000 level on Friday, I can’t help remembering some of my own articles:

Today everyone claims to have predicted the rally, despite the fact that tens of thousands of hours of interviews on CNBC and Bloomberg say otherwise.

Indeed I wish I had some sort of comparison machine to prove how unusual my take was compared to the prevailing comment of the era.

So am I a market timing guru?

Hardly.

I don’t expect anyone to go back and read those articles, but if you do you’ll discover I didn’t predict that shares would be at five-year highs by February 2013.

My point was for most of the past 3-4 years, shares have looked like fine investments for the long term. So if that was your investment horizon – and for most of us it should be – then it was time to be a buyer.

All you can do is balance the risks and rewards on offer.

You’re on your own

Another point I’ve tried to get across is that commentators have continually made bold and gloomy predictions over the past few years not because of any certain insight, but because of a combination of recency bias (i.e. fighting the last war) and because, in the case of the media, bad news sells.

If I’d been spouting terrible warnings about imminent European meltdown, gold heading to $5,000, and rampant financial chicanery, this blog would have a lot more readers – and it would be much more useless to you.

So I won’t blow my own trumpet any more. Firstly, because my joints aren’t as flexible as they were (guffaw!) and secondly because Ermine over at Simple Living in Suffolk has done a too-generous job for me this week. (I’m incredibly flattered and also chuffed to think Monevator has made a difference).

More to the point, this blog is about you taking control of your finances and making your own mind up – not blindly listening to anyone.

Some of the risks of the past few years were very real, and the markets could now be at half the level where they stand. Equally, they could begin to slide tomorrow. Nobody knows, and it’s up to you to judge whether they look good value when it comes to meeting your own needs.

You’re accountable to nobody else – and nobody cares as much as you do.

Memento mori

Finally, I’m also in the fortunate position of knowing how utterly wrong I can be.

Like the servant employed to follow the all-conquering Roman general and whisper “Memento Mori” into his ear to remind him he was mortal, I have the London property market to remind me daily of my own buffoonery.

Again, long suffering readers will remember that I am short one house in London. I have been renting since 2004 expecting a property crash.

How wrong can you be?

Very. From the FT today (search result, the article is listed at the top):

Houses in London’s 10 most expensive boroughs are now worth as much as the property markets of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined, underlining the extent of Britain’s growing wealth divide.

As my old dad used to say in a bizarre Italian accent:

“What a mistake-a to make-a.”

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Book of the week: In his new book Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett, one of Monevator’s favourite authors – Larry Swedroe – enlists one of the greatest stock pickers of all time in a quest to spread the word about passive investing. Cunning!

Mainstream media money

Note: Some links are to Google search results – these enable you to click through to read the piece without you being a paid subscriber of the site

Passive investing

  • Long-term investing: Keep it simple – CNN Money
  • Are active investors really doing so badly? [Search result]Merryn/FT

Active investing

  • Short selling: Evil, or necessary evil? – Swedroe/CBS
  • Quantopia brings algorithmic trading to the masses – Fortune
  • The trouble with bond yields [Search result – deep dive on bonds]FT
  • Why the world’s biggest hedge fund missed big in 2012 – CNN

Other stuff worth reading

  • The point of low return – Part 1 and Part 2 from The Economist
  • FSA launches review of poor annuity pricing – The Guardian
  • UBS to reclassify conservative bond owners as ‘aggressive’ – Fox
  • How to get the most from Poundland – The Telegraph
  • Why inflation is important [Video]CityWire
  • Jared Diamond’s guide to reducing life’s risks – New York Times

Product of the week: The Guardian has a useful review of music streaming services. (I’m a Spotify man myself, and don’t understand why anyone is crazy enough to buy CDs nowadays).

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{ 32 comments… add one }
  • 1 Drew @ Objective Wealth February 2, 2013, 12:13 pm

    Nice round up. Next we might see ‘guru-exposing gurus’ in the financial industry!

  • 2 Steve February 2, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Today’s Guardian had an interesting angle on the “London versus The Rest” house price question, comparing the recent sale prices of two houses bought for £150,000 in 2002: a London house gained 377%, a Hartlepool house lost 13%. Gulp.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/feb/02/property-divide-house-price-casino

  • 3 Steve February 2, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Oh … your Jared Diamond / NYT link is a bit mangled.

  • 4 Si February 2, 2013, 1:14 pm

    I think your link to Simple living in Suffolk needs ammending!

  • 5 The Investor February 2, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Thanks guys — and sorry for anyone who has suffered the mangled links.

    It happens because some browsers (i.e. Firefox) no longer includes the http bit in the URL. So if I don’t remember to add it manually if I cut and paste from Firefox, it thinks the articles are on this site.

    Simple Living in Suffolk seems to be simply down, though.

  • 6 Sarah February 2, 2013, 3:43 pm

    Take consolation in the fact that in 30 years when you reach FI, you can up sticks and move to Wales or Scotland and still get a decent house. And you won’t need the well paid job that they haven’t got. And we might even have semi-decent broadband by then!

  • 7 ermine February 2, 2013, 5:42 pm

    I don’t think I’m down 🙂 Curiously, when I use Firefox and also don’t see the URI scheme (http://). However, when I paste it into Wordpress, or indeed into Notepad, it is bright enough to add the scheme prefix.

    London prices eh, It’s not just you that called that bad. That effect has been going on a lot longer than the period you’re looking at. In 1969 My Dad bought a semi in a then leafy London suburb in Greenwich on a single blue-collar salary. If I doubled my final salary and expected to work another 30 years it would be touch-and-go as to whether I could buy the same house now, even though the once aspirational district of forty years ago has become a tatty and degraded part of the Socialist Republic of Greenwich.

    I left London as a single man in the late 1980s because I had no hope of being able to buy a house (rather than a flat) there; you already needed two salaries to make it then.

  • 8 Retirement Investing Today February 2, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Hi TI

    Very much agree with “Another point I’ve tried to get across is that commentators have continually made bold and gloomy predictions over the past few years not because of any certain insight, but because of a combination of recency bias (i.e. fighting the last war) and because, in the case of the media, bad news sells.”

    When I tried trading it was all of this end of world type stuff that had me selling stocks short. Since those days I’ve learnt my lesson and now follow a Time in the Market and not Timing the Market philosophy.

    Cheers
    RIT

    PS: A big hat tip from me also. I read every article that you (or the Monevator team) write (sometimes multiple times) and couldn’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learnt.

  • 9 Neverland February 2, 2013, 7:53 pm

    @ Investor

    I don’t know why you are so happy that shares are at 5 year highs

    You are still a net buyer, so they are just getting more expensive for you to buy

    Sure its nice being vindicated from an ego point of view, but its rather like the owners of a two bed flat in London who finds their flat has gone from being worth £200k to being worth £500k, but then find that the 3 bed house they now want to buy now costs not £400k it used to but £1m

    They don’t look better off to me

  • 10 Neverland February 2, 2013, 7:54 pm

    @ Steve

    You can’t be right – house prices only go up *snigger*

  • 11 Andy February 2, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Perhaps I’m being naive (though predicting the economy long-term is a mug’s game), or I’m a wannabe FTBer with an agenda, but I still do think a price correction is coming, even in London (prime market potentially excepted as these are often cash purchases, and often by foreigners whose ‘home’ currency has benefited from sterling’s deflation).

    The principal (I say principal as the vast majority of people buy with a mortgage) economic fundamental that drove the boom was increasingly cheaper credit, particularly so toward the end of the boom. With money markets awash with cash and yields depressed, cash flew into assets, which inevitably increased prices. This fundamental sharply disappeared post-Lehman. However, it’s been replaced: first with low rates, and then QE again tried (and has largely succeeded) to make cash cheaper. Initially that cash just went to home owners with LTVs of ≤60% in the form of super mortgage rates; now it’s also being passed onto FTBers with the NewBuy schemes. I see this as just a continuation of the underlying problem: cheap cash. The current policy has given temporary pain relief into the property market, but it hasn’t corrected the underlying problem: its unhealthy reliance on too much debt and consequent high LTV ratios.

    Yet we still have property experts imagining a return to boom time very shortly. The problem is, absent QE, nothing is really driving economic activity. Wages fell in the slump, wage inflation is negligible, the numbers of people in jobs may have increased but, crucially, employee productivity has fallen (presumably, though this is a supposition, because many are employed by “zombie” businesses that are permitted to survive in this low rate landscape), people will be forced to save more for pensions with the withdrawal of DB schemes and the introduction of auto-enrolment, and new employees entering the market will pay a hefty amount of their pay cheque as student loan (most likely for the full 30yr term). Oh and, rates will rise. I see nothing driving a boom; rather the reverse given that current prices are unsustainable in anything but this low-rate environment. Unfortunately, given the vested interests, I can’t see any correction being anything other than drawn out; people talk about inflation eating away at real value long term as a possible solution, but this doesn’t assist in an environment where wage inflation is so low – I can’t see this being the only way the property market will experience a correction.

    Anyway, rant over, as property wasn’t the purpose of this blog entry, but thought I would add my (lengthy, I’ve just noticed, and probably wildly incorrect) thoughts! New reader of this very good blog – wish I’d discovered it long ago.

    (Disclosure: 28yo City worker; rent in Central London)

  • 12 Neverland February 2, 2013, 9:53 pm

    @Andy

    How much has your rent gone up in the last seven years do you think?

  • 13 Andy February 2, 2013, 10:34 pm

    I’ve only been in London a short while so I have no answer but agreed re the principle. Renting over the last 7 years would have been a lousy investment. Ironically it would have been better to buy at the height of the boom. Now, however, I largely don’t have a choice.

  • 14 gadgetmind February 3, 2013, 12:48 am

    I bought a lot of shares in late 2008 and early 2009, and then a shed load more in mid/late 2011. I didn’t know how well they’d do, but I knew they were stonking value. Happy days, doubles all round!

    As for London property, bubbles burst, and they tend to do it just when everyone has quite thoroughly convinced everyone who will listen than no such bubble exists. I don’t know when it will pop, but it’s going to be *very* messy!

    (Queue people telling me why it isn’t a bubble and explaining supply and demand, at length!)

  • 15 Neverland February 3, 2013, 1:17 am

    “As for London property, bubbles burst, and they tend to do it just when everyone has quite thoroughly convinced everyone who will listen than no such bubble exists.”

    But everyone has been convinced it is a bubble since….hmmm….2003?

    I think I still have the vintage Economist cover somewhere

  • 16 The Investor February 3, 2013, 1:17 am

    Thanks for your thoughts all. Keep them coming. 🙂

    @Steve — Shocking link/stat. I wish I could say “It’s unbelievable how London property has soared” but having lived through it, I can only believe it.

    @Sarah — Yes, have considered both West Wales and parts of Spain on rainy day-dreamy days, but the broadband access is genuinely still an issue, especially with the latter. Roll on the satellites.

    @ermine — I think my days here are numbered, too. It just feels rotten to have lost at the game, especially when so many won without realising they were playing. (As I said, I dine on humble pie).

    @RIT — Much appreciated!

    @Andy — The maths hasn’t made sense in London for many years. The trouble is drip-drip inflation will slowly undo the current situation over a couple of decades without us noticing or benefiting. (As Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead). I’d bet on a correction too, but it’s a young man’s game. It would have been wiser in retrospect to hedge my bets and buy a small one-bed place and to have swallowed the 30% fall if it came. Ho hum, that’s how we learn. That said, I’m not buying London now, so maybe we (I) don’t.

    @Neverland — Excellent point. I suppose in mitigation (a) I think shares still don’t look *too* dear (b) I intend/need some of the capital to go towards a property purchase somewhere (likely outside of London now) and (c) I have begun to realize there is always an investible opportunity somewhere in the world. (e.g. Those somewhat dangerous floating rate notes I pointed to a few weeks ago).

    @gadgetmind — As I know you’re a Motley Fool regular, go to the Property and Markets Trends board and read some posts from 2003. The same arguments were being made back then that the bubble would burst and I believed them. (Heck, I wrote some of them). A decade later and I can still make the same arguments about London property being grossly overvalued, but I do so incredibly warily and knowing anything can happen now. 🙁

  • 17 K February 3, 2013, 2:27 am

    @Andy

    What you say is true, there’s no cheap credit anymore, just QE but who knows when QE will actually end? even if there’s no Japanification of Britain/US/the west in general, who knows what will happen to the housing market in London. Cheap credit was a source of financing for domestic buyers who were into “buy to let”. Maybe even more Saudi/Russian/$land investors/tenants will jump into the London market.

    “Trading” & timing the housing market accurately is impossible if not because of the considerations I mentioned, then because of the size of your notional and the inability to cut risk.

    How about long term investing then?

    Some interesting plots:

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Img/251767/0072508.gif

    http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/ft-long-short/files/2012/09/Fathom-House-Prices.png

    http://www.pro-dg.co.uk/imgs/graph2.jpg

    Is there an upwards drift for London house prices ? Maybe , historical plots seem to indicate so. Is it worth buying a house given the current prices ? if the trend is there and you plan to hold for 30 years, then probably but again, who’d take a 30 year risk based on an old trend?, the trend may not continue after all for several reasons, eg a possible comeback of council housing.

    I agree that, given the rental yields, buying a house looks unattractive now but assuming (for the sake of the argument) prices stay the same, renting isn’t attractive as well in “the long run”!

    The question then becomes similar to: do you believe that stock markets have a long term trend? some of them have had an upwards trend indeed but still as some joke it’s stocks for the very long run, not just the long run.

    In any case, I can’t afford to buy a property in London given the current prices and won’t afford for a long time even if I go completely frugal so I’m renting.

  • 18 K February 3, 2013, 2:36 am

    @The investor. Have you considered that you may have two views one on the housing market and one on the stock market that are inconsistent with each other ?

    Because of a historical upwards drift in US/UK stockmarkets, you believe that being in the market for the long run.

    The housing market has the same behavior for similar historical horizons.

    Even more, the two seem to have some sort of correlation for the US/UK, where “stocks for the long run” has held in the past – so having a bulling long term view on one of them and a bearish long term view on the other.

    A crash in real estate sometimes crashes the market as well ( ’29, ’08 ).

    Don’t really have a view on what’s going to happen in the long run, eg 30 years from today nor do I believe in stocks for the long run to be honest but still I think if you accept what backs being long the market, it’s a similar story that backs the being long the housing market, plus the two seem to have be correlated even on shorter time scales ( despite a common upwards long term drift ).

  • 19 gadgetmind February 3, 2013, 9:45 am

    Those who were investing during the 90s may well remember how opinions slowly changed regards dotcom shares. Many people said there was no substance to them, no underlying business model that justified the price, and that it was all an obvious bubble. As the years passed, and those trendy share prices soared and soared, the mood started to change and people started to slowly accept that it really was “a new paradigm” and that anyone still in boring old shares just didn’t get it. When the last few hold-outs finally accepted that they had been wrong all the time and joined the party, that was when it went pop.

    My only big loss was on paper via the share options of a technology company I worked for at the time as my own investments remained in the boring stuff and quickly recovered.

    My crystal ball is cloudy regards the timescale for London property but I’m glad to be watching from a (hopefully!) safe distance because I can’t see it being a particularly soft landing from the height it’s now achieved.

    Only time will tell.

  • 20 Luke February 3, 2013, 10:20 am

    Good piece.

    I was pleasantly surprised to get a pension statement yesterday to see that I’m 11% up on the year with my thoroughly boring no fee trackers and tiny chunks of small cap funds.

    And we’d be glad to see you in Scotland, soft Southern nellies can be found in surprisingly high concentrations in the nicer parts of Glasgow and Edinburgh 😉

  • 21 Neverland February 3, 2013, 12:11 pm

    @Andy

    I was idly looking at the usually unread Homes & Property section of the FT yesterday they had a section on the island of Menorca

    3 bed condo = £500k
    6 bed rural farmhouse = £2.5m
    8 bed coastal villa = £5m

    Obviously very few impoverished locals in Menorca can afford even the entry point of these properties, while the demnad from very rich people wanting a holiday home is very large on a small island

    London, I would imagine, is a very pleasant city to live in if you are very rich and easy to get into because of cash = visa rules

    So maybe are there enough multi-millionaires being created in emerging markets to match the current anemic supply of London homes on the market?

    (however, I personally agree the balance of probabilities is that the preospects of houses in London is not so good)

  • 22 gadgetmind February 3, 2013, 12:20 pm

    It’s always hard (understatement!) to make accurate predictions for any asset class, but I do think you can use the available information to decide what level of exposure to have and what level of gearing you are comfortable with.

    If someone had London property at (say) 50% of their total assets and was at “only” 50% gearing, then they could ride out a shock. However, could someone entering now keep those figures down to sensible levels?

    As I’m sure the answer is “Hell no!” then not buying is the only prudent option even if subsequent market movements show that being more bold would have paid off better.

  • 23 The Investor February 3, 2013, 5:03 pm

    @K — It’s a very fair question.

    I think the difference is that with a house you invest everything on day one, and the amount you sink is so very large on day one, too, relative to your lifetime earnings and likely net worth.

    If I had to buy all my shares marked-to-market with 7-10 times my annual salary at some particular point in time, I think I’d treat the asset class *very* differently!

    With shares you typically average in and out of bull and bear markets over years with regular savings. With houses, unless you own many homes (a landlord say) you can’t really do this with your own residential property.

    You obviously pay down your mortgage over the years (so you can be perhaps pretty nonchalant about interest rates, provided you’re well within your affordability range) but your initial purchase price is fixed.

  • 24 Neverland February 3, 2013, 6:27 pm

    @Gadgetmind

    “If someone had London property at (say) 50% of their total assets and was at “only” 50% gearing, then they could ride out a shock. However, could someone entering now keep those figures down to sensible levels?

    As I’m sure the answer is “Hell no!” then not buying is the only prudent option even if subsequent market movements show that being more bold would have paid off better.”

    Anyone buying their first home is probably sticking more than half their net worth into their deposit, stamp duty and furniture etc.

    Then they are borrowing 4-10x their deposit (or 2-5x their gross assets) on a (usually) 25 year term to finance the rest of it

    For a household to buy a “typical” London home with an average price of £430k (from the top my head). Your maths:

    – their deposit £215k
    – their mortageg £215k
    – their other assets £430k
    – their gross assets £830k
    – their net assets £615k

    Mean average wealth of a 18-44 year old household in the UK = c. £202k (HMRC data from 2010)

    Answer = any remotely “young” household would have to have 3x the level of average assets for their age to afford even a modest property in a modest neighbourhood in London without taking a huge punt on the property market. You would certainly have to be in the tp two deciles of wealth for that age group to have that much money, even allowing for Londoners earning more

    Conclusion = the average UK domiciled non-middle aged property owner in London is taking a huge punt on property prices, because they can’t all be that rich

    I have actually heard of a few people who, on finding out their houses and flats magically tripled in value, took out a bigger mortage and bought some flats in London to rent out or bought a huge house to rent the rooms out to lodgers. They think they are rich and clever business men and women……..

  • 25 gadgetmind February 3, 2013, 6:46 pm

    Yes, everyone using massive leverage to buy fully priced (see, I didn’t say over-priced!) assets thinks they are rich and clever. Then it all goes wrong and they crash and burn. And it doesn’t just happen to the young and foolish as I know a lot of older people who flew far too close to that particular sun.

    I know a lot of smart people who are not buying in London because they’d rather hang on to what they’ve got than lose it all to leverage.

    In their position, I’d do the same.

  • 26 ermine February 3, 2013, 7:38 pm

    @Neverland
    > Mean average wealth of a 18-44 year old household in the UK

    That’s way too wide a spread to be meaningful, unfortunately. At 21 I started my working life with the clothes on my back, a kettle and a few pots and pans. Net worth bugger all, and it’s worse now for students with student debt.

    At 44 I had a semidetached house and about 70% equity in it. The batting average of that mean average wealth is going to be stupendously towards the 44 end. Have hope. From some of your posts you feel the draught because I guess you may be less that halfway through that. Before I left London I was in the BBC bar drinking pints of ESB to blank out the drone of people yakking on about how they had made money on property and asking myself how come young (ish) people like me could ever afford a home.

    They do it a little piece at a time, spending less than they earn, and paying a little lump of a mortgage off at a time. I was stupid enough to buy a house in ’89 on an earnings multiple that was worse that the average UK house price is now. I paid 14% mortgage interest in ’92. I have never defaulted, nor did I win the lottery or inherit money. The steady drip adds up over the years.

  • 27 Salis Grano February 3, 2013, 8:21 pm

    The London property market is going to be incredibly difficult to call. In the blue corner: International buyers in the prime districts. In the red corner: rising rates and the long overhang of interest only mortgages. Where this will leave the ‘burbs I just don’t know. From Archway to Wimbledon it’s going to be a question of deciding where you can afford or want to live and to hell with calculations of financial gain.

    Disclosure: Through no skill of mine I have done well out of the London property market and could take advantage by selling up and moving out. But the strange thing is: the more time goes by, the less I want to.

    BTW, Congratulations to Monevator for the best PF site in the world.

  • 28 Passive Investor February 3, 2013, 9:32 pm

    @ investor @ accumulator

    This is a comment on the link to the Merryn/FT article. This was based on research from Premier Asset Management. The argument presented was first that active funds now often have lower management fees than previously. Secondly she commented that taking an assets-under management weighted average performance demonstrated that money under active management had better returns than passive index trackers. The article used the research to propose that active funds might be a good idea after all. It made me stop and think and for a second question the wisdom of passive investing. However on reflection there are a couple of flaws in her logic.

    (1) The article fails to take account of portfolio turnover or survivorship bias.

    (2) More fundamentally the assumption in the article is that the fact that the most successful active funds have the most assets under management demonstrates that investors can IN ADVANCE pick out successful funds. This explanation is highly unlikely and a much more likely explanation is that active investors are chasing performance and moving money to successful active funds AFTER they have performed.

    Fund returns are usually presented as time-weighted averages. (These assume an initial lump sum with dividends re-invested). The returns received by real-life investors though should be calculated as pound-weighted averages (which take account of when people actually invested in the fund). Pound-weighted averages are never published but are likely to be much lower than time-weighted averages because of performance chasing. If the research quoted by Merryn SW had considered pound-weighted averages the results would surely have been much less flattering for active funds.

    Performance chasing is highly damaging to investment returns because of reversion to mean effects. Ch 5 The Grand Illusion in The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle suggests that it reduces returns by an average of 2% or more.

    Anyway no-one else might be interested in this but as the article briefly made me question the wisdom of passive investing I thought it was worth making the comments above.

    Also, the material in the chapter above on time-weighted average returns (explained much more clearly than I possible can!) might make an interesting passive investing post too.

  • 29 Neverland February 3, 2013, 10:11 pm

    @ Ermine

    When I was thirty I actually owned outright a flat in London and had very substantial savings besides

    That was in the last millenium, things were very different then

    Simply the HMRC data only splits tax-payers into three categories:
    – under 44
    – 44-64
    – 65 and over

  • 30 Passive Investor February 4, 2013, 12:22 am

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-51499520/mutual-fund-returns-worse-than-you-thought/

    The above link explains the difference between time-weighted and dollar-weighted returns. The effects of performance chasing on investor returns are way higher than I realised.

  • 31 BeatTheSeasons February 13, 2013, 3:35 pm

    I managed to hold around 50% of my savings in equities during the surge up from 5,600 to 6,300 that has taken place over the last 3 months.

    I guess I’m getting sucked into the stupidity of market timing, but I’ll ask a few questions anyway:
    1. Is the market still “cheap” at these levels, and so should I accept that things are looking better and buy more?
    2. Should I sit tight and have the benefit of cash on hand to use for another buying opportunity, but maybe pounce if things only fall back to around 6,000 rather than the 5,000 level I was expecting?
    3. Should I “take profits” so I have even more cash available for the next buying opportunity?

    See, I can’t believe that nothing bad is going to happen in the next few months somewhere in the US, Europe, UK or Middle East, and that we aren’t going to see another mini-crash like the ones we’ve had in each of the last 3 years.

    I’m sure I’ve shown myself to be susceptible to at least half of the common psychological problems that make us undermine our own investment success – please point them out to me!

    On the house prices, I can’t resist pointing out that one reason prices haven’t gone down is that there are currently few forced sellers. When interest rates finally go up it is going to expose:
    1. People with ‘heritage’ mortgages that charge, for example, base rate minus 0.25%, i.e. bugger all
    2. People on interest only mortgages who start to run out of time remaining but can’t afford to pay off the actual debt
    3. People on ‘liars’ mortgages who couldn’t afford their house in the first place but pretended to have a massive self-employed income that has now dried up or never existed.
    Whether this leads to a fall in prices is hard to foresee – but there will surely be bargains available to cash buyers when there are desperate sellers, even if no wholesale crash.

  • 32 Passive Investor February 13, 2013, 4:15 pm

    @beattheseasons

    I am afraid I can only really give you the classic passive investor answer which is that no-one really knows whether the market will move up or down. As someone once said “There are only two types of investor. Those who don’t know which way the market will move, but who think they do and those you don’t know which way the market will move and who know they don’t know”.

    This recent piece from Rick Ferri has a nice graph of PE ratios with time and addresses the dilemma you face by considering age, investment goals and portfolio risk.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickferri/2012/12/10/2097/

    I suppose the answer from Rick Ferri is if you are young then it is best to buy and hold. If you are approaching or in retirement and the recent upswing has moved you near to your investment goal then it might be worth taking some risk out of your portfolio. But at 50:50 (which is what I, aged 48, happen to use) you are being fairly cautious anyway.

    If you sell stocks then you have to decide whether to go for bonds and their are not necessarily a safe option at the moment anyway.

    I wouldn’t worry about a mini-crash unless I was well into retirement. On the contrary if you are still earning and are more than 10 years from retirement, to paraphrase William Bernstein “get down on your knees and pray for it”!!!

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