I hope that everyone had a great Holiday season to wrap up 2015. As we look back at 2015 and then look forward to 2016, there are a lot of things to be thankful for, a lot to be sad about, things to be optimistic about, and things to be nervous about. I’d like to take just a moment to share my thoughts.
Every year, around this time of year, people ask me what I think the market will do in the new year. I always remember back to when I was studying for my securities licenses. On the first trading day of that year, there was a CNBC reporter on the floor of the NYSE interviewing traders (a rarity then). She asked a trader on one side what he expected for the year and he said that he was optimistic and thought it would be a positive year, well into double digit returns. Then she turned to the guy on her other side with the same question. He responded that he thought it would be a bad year with double digit down returns! All I could think was that if these guys who trade this market every day can’t figure it out, how could I!!
The real answer is – I can’t. And I won’t pretend to. In reality, neither of those guys had any idea what would happen. I can’t tell you what may happen geopolitically, in our presidential race, in the economy, or anywhere else in the future. What we can look at is what history has shown us.
The year 2015 turned out to be a year that the markets were all over the place but went no where. The S&P 500 finished with a total return of 1.7% but if you take out dividends, was down 0.7%. The International index EAFE lost 0.8% total return and the 10-year US Treasury Bond finished the year at 2.27%, just 0.1 of a percent higher than the 2.17% it started the year at. (source: BTN research and Treasury Dept.)
Over the last 50 years (1966-2015), the S&P 500 had a total return of +9.7% a year and has finished the calendar year in positive territory 39 times, or 78% of the time. (source: BTN research) So what does that mean for 2016? I don’t know.
There are challenges ahead – the federal reserve has begun to raise interest rates, the economy is still sluggishly improving, China’s growth is slowing, S&P profits are decreasing due to lower commodity prices, the US National Debt is up to $18.825 trillion, and it’s an election year. Election years at the end of two term presidential terms haven’t been good in recent years either: Bush had the housing and financial meltdown, Clinton saw the Tech Bubble burst, and Reagan faced the Savings & Loan crisis. So what does that mean for 2016? I don’t know.
So what do I know? We all still have goals that must be met. We want to retire at a certain age, we want to educate our children or grandchildren, we need income in retirement, or we want to buy that vacation house. We can’t sit back and worry about what may happen because it may never happen. And if it does – We’ll get through it, just like every other time. The S&P 500 has never failed to eventually recover from every sever dip to go on to new record highs. I also know that by diversifying in a good, quality portfolio of low cost investments, made up of stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate and other investments you have a better chance of meeting your long term goals than if you leave that money sitting in cash or buried in the back yard.
If you have concerns about the next year, or how your portfolio is situated, please don’t hesitate to call. I’d love to sit down and talk with you about it. I’m here to walk beside you through all of this toward your financial goals.
Happy New Year and God Bless.