Photo credit: David Seibolid || Oh dear, you lost your head!
So we had a hard market day yesterday. Maybe COVID-19 will resurge in the USA. The great thing about the USA is that no one is ever truly in charge. Power is shared. Most of the time, that’s a good thing.
I am not saying that it is time to buy, unless it is small trades. I bought 0.7% of stocks yesterday as the market fell 5%+. My aggregate cash position is around 20% of assets. After buying as the market fell in March, I was selling off stocks in May.
Did I not believe the rally? Sure I did, but there are degrees of belief, and I kept selling bits as the market rose.
Now let me tell you about two former clients. One was retiring, and wanted to move his assets to a firm I had never heard of. He notified me the second day after the bull market peak in February. I did not argue; I just liquidated the account for him. As the market fell after that, he told me to delay selling — the market would come back. I told him he had already sold.
Now, the new manager was incompetent in rolling over the assets. I was astounded how long it took, even with me helping them. As such, the client got a bad idea, and took 2/3rds of the assets and bought an equity indexed annuity decently past the recent market bottom. The insurance company knew how to roll assets. I wish my client had asked me regarding this — EIAs are “roach motels” for cash. They don’t return well, and you can’t get out of them. Your money dies there.
The incompetent asset manager ended up managing 1/3rd of the cash they thought they would. My former client is ill-served both ways.
Then there was the second client. He seemed to be happy and was interested in good long-run returns. In my risk survey, he scored normally. But when the market fell hard in March, he panicked and wanted to liquidate. But he asked my opinion on the matter. I told him that quick moves of the market tend to reverse, and that the securities that he held were well-capitalized, and even if the market fell further, they would not fall as much.
Then he told me that he never wanted the portfolio to fall below a certain level which we were at that point close to breaching. This was new information to me, and I said to him, if that’s the case, you should not be investing in stocks. Either change your goal, or change your asset allocation.
For a day, he realized he should be willing to take more risk. Than the market fell hard again, and he told me to liquidate.
I did so.
And it was the bottom.
So what is the lesson here?
It’s simple. Choose an asset allocation that you can live with under all conditions, and stick with it. This is the same thing that I tell the risk-averse pastors that I serve on the denominational pension board. And if you are not sure that you can live with it, move the risk level down another notch.
A second lesson is be honest with yourself, and also with your advisor, about your risk preferences. Most advisors that I know are happy to adjust the riskiness of client portfolios. There is no heroism in taking too much risk.
As I have said a number of times before, I have run my portfolio at 70/30 risky/safe all of my life plus or minus 10%. I personally could run at a higher level of risk, but I would rather not take the mental toll of doing so.
And when the market moves, I trade against it — but not aggressively. I am always moving in the right direction, but slowly, because I am never 100% certain where mean-reversion will kick in.
Yesterday was tough. Big deal. Days like that will happen. It’s part of the game. As for my second client, he took more risk than he was comfortable with, and ended up leaving the game, which is the worst outcome under normal conditions.
Sun Tzu said the most important task of a general was to understand himself and his enemy. My second client did not understand his own desires, and he did not understand how volatile the market can be.
As such he lost out — as did the first client in other ways. And thus to all I say, “Choose an asset allocation you can live with under all conditions, and stick with it.” You will be happier, and you will do better if you do so.
SOURCE: The Aleph Blog – Read entire story here.