I’m not really a sports guy, but a famous Wayne Gretzky quote keeps rising to the top of my mind: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Hackneyed? Yes. Insightful? Also yes. And, a particularly apt warning for stock and bond investors for today’s shifting economic environment.
The Dow will rise to 40,000 in the next 12 months. That’s not so much a forecast as it is a warning. Sure, a rising stock market may sound exciting, but too much of a good thing can pose eventual problems. And, if history is any guide, a quick jump to 40,000 is very possible, but so is a subsequent correction that could take the Dow to 18,000.
Here’s today’s dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about: your investment portfolio is likely underperforming the market this year. Worse, you are probably lagging behind school-aged day traders on the new Robinhood trading app.
The golden age of fixed income is over. The days when investors could rely on traditional bonds as safe, income-producing securities that hedge equity risk and deliver returns that keep pace with inflation are finished. While it may not have felt like it, long-term investors had it pretty easy over the last 90-plus years.
The song “Mr. Bojangles” is a staple on radio stations that feature songs from the 1970s, even though it was written in 1968. Most of us have heard the popular version, by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which hit No. 9 on the Billboard charts. However, the original version by upstate New York native Jerry Jeff Walker is still relatively obscure.
The share of 401(k) assets invested in index funds has risen from 17 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2016, a recent report from financial data firm Brightscope and the Investment Company Institute shows. While that is impressive growth, the share of retirement assets in index funds should be much larger, probably close to 100 percent.
Most investors have a mix of stocks and bonds in their portfolios. Stocks are there for long-term growth, whereas bonds are generally purchased for stability and income generation. This has worked out pretty well historically, as stock returns averaged over 10 percent annually since the 1920s, and bonds have yielded over 5 percent, according to Ibbotson data. A balanced portfolio of 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds has become the de facto standard for many investment portfolios, as the returns have been substantial enough to meet most investors’ returns, while keeping risk in check.
In a recent interview with CNBC, famed investor Warren Buffett marveled at the current economic environment. He not¬ed that unemployment is at multi-decade lows and the federal budget deficit is at an all-time high, yet inflation and interest rates are historically low. No economics textbook, in Buffett’s estimation, could have predicted such an environment.
The current economic expansion is now 117 months old. Looking at data that goes back to 1854, this is just shy of the record 120-month expansion that occurred from 1991 to 2001. It seems likely we’ll soon exceed the prior record, but how long can the economy continue to grow, and how long can the stock market continue its associated bull run?
Prince, or the artist formerly known as Prince, or whatever his name ultimately was, made headlines throughout his life for his talent and eccentricities. However, the headlines after his death in 2016 revolved around the fact that he died with an estimated $200 million estate and no documents in place to guide its disposition.