If you were a long-term investor and had bought equities back in 2000, you're sitting on losses today. The notion of buy-and-hold is generally a solid concept, but it's not as clear cut as it sounds. Sure, if you invest when you're 20 years old and hold on for 40 years, you'll probably do fine. But if you were 45 years old back in 1997 and started to seriously fund your 401(k) and investment portfolio, you're ready to call it quits after a decade of negative real returns.
Even though the markets are down nearly 50% since October of last year, many investors are ready to pull the plug and call it quits. The day-to-day volatility is brutal. But before completely giving up on equities, make sure you are looking at the market from a rational perspective. If you do, you will realize that there are investments to be excited about.
But first, investors would benefit tremendously from some sage advice from Ben Graham. You might not know this, but during the Depression, Graham's investment partnership lost around 80% in a single year. Graham was down, but he stayed the course, remained patient and, most importantly, he stuck to his fundamental approach.Graham was following his own advice: In the short-term the markets are voting machines, but in the long-term the markets are weighing machines. Translated: Sooner or later, stock prices will follow those businesses that continue to improve fundamentally.
Right now the votes are being cast, and they are overwhelmingly negative. And to be sure, many businesses won't make it through or will do so only to lead a life of mediocrity. Such is the beauty of free-market capitalism. But many others will get out of the recession and prosper.
As investors find themselves at the end of one the worst years in market history, it's instructive to step back and examine the situation rationally as you head into 2009.