Sir John Templeton, the father of international investing, once said, “Among the four most dangerous words in investing are ‘it’s different this time.’” With the continuation of a lackluster economic recovery and so much congestion in Washington these days, it is difficult not to feel that way. Financial “journalists” bombard us daily with headlines about the European debt crisis, the fiscal cliff, geopolitical conflict abroad, and political gridlock at home. They bring this news to us as if it was brand new, and they tell us that its implications on the financial markets are both dreadful and unprecedented.
So my goal with this column is to provide an antacid (a healthy historical perspective) for the heartburn induced by these financial journalists and “The Annual Apocalypse” they peddle.
A while back, I ran across an issue of TIME magazine with the following headline: “High Anxiety: Looming recession, government paralysis, and the threat of war are giving Americans a case of the jitters.” At first blush I assumed this was a recent edition, but to my surprise I found that the issue was dated Oct. 15, 1990. I’ll do the math for you … that’s more than 22 years ago. Since seeing that cover, I’ve located a score of TIME magazine covers heralding a coming financial apocalypse that could easily be used today (see above for a sampling).
Scary headlines might sell magazines, but they don’t make for sound investment guidance or a reliable long-term perspective. And while the journalists who compose these articles write with confidence and conviction, the simple truth is that they don’t know the future. In fact, if the doomsday picture painted by TIME’s journalists had compelled investors to sell out of stocks, it would have been a devastating mistake. For example, if you take the S&P 500’s return from the first publication date below (Sept. 9, 1974) through Nov. 30, 2012, an investor would have missed out on 6,265.7%, or 11.5% annualized, had he or she sold out of stocks, according to Morningstar Direct.
We endure the short-term discomfort of market volatility because of the undeniable long-term benefit stocks provide. Don’t allow financial “journalists,” who care nothing for your wellbeing, to take your eye off that ball. Invest in a thoughtful, disciplined, diversified approach. And if you’d prefer not to navigate the complex world of investing alone, enlist the help of a Registered Investment Advisor to help keep you on track.