By LAWRENCE MURRAY WITH HELP FROM WSJ’S DAVE KANSAS
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is retracing the steps from 1996 and almost 50% below its record levels reached in the fall of 2007. The Nasdaq Composite on the other hand has fallen to near lows where it lost 70% of its value earlier in the decade. Then take Japans 75% market loss starting in 1990. The markets are a long term forward looking deposit system and in the past 2 weeks have displaying some signs of life.
Is the stock market still a good vehicle for long term investing like for retirement since the stock-market averages are struggling so much?
Saving and investing depends a great deal on where you are in your life cycle. A good rule of thumb is to use your age to determine how much you should have invested in the safer assets, such as cash, money market funds, Treasurys and corporate bonds. If you are 50, then you should have less than 50% of your assets in stocks and 50% in safer assets. If you are 30, then your retirement accounts should have a 70%-30% mix of stocks and bonds. Some people argue for the "rule of 110," which is modestly more aggressive. That rule argues for subtracting your age from 110, and having that amount of money in the stock market. So, if you are 50, you'd have 60% (110 minus 50) of your investments in the stock market.
But no matter which rule you use to make up your plan, the older you get, the more you want to move your assets away from the stock market, preserving the gains you've made. If you have a 401K, add to it regularly. Then rebalance, or if your administrator allows, automatic quarterly rebalancing, annually changing the percentage by one percent more into safer assets. Some people try to even maximize this simple adjustment to realize the top of the market for the year to add to performance as well as adding small amounts to their retirement account if the market moves down. In this way, you hope to buy low and sell high. I say, always buy and always look for an opportunity to sell.
One of the biggest mistakes research have found in the data indicates that individuals tend to bail out of the stock market closer to bottoms than to tops. Making a plan avoids this temptation as most market timer’s performance has usually not played out particularly well.
Moreover, it is usually at the depths of economic difficulty where the stock market starts to rebound. The stock market is a forward-looking investment instrument, meaning that it starts to rebound well before the economic data show that things are getting better.
So, as tough as this period has been for the long-term investor, there are ample reasons to stick with a long-term plan that includes a large role for the stock market.