Saturday, November 29, 2008
It is not at all clear how (or if) the investing public is going to recover from the 2008 plunge in equity markets following the ongoing plunge in home prices that began in 2006. Many were led to believe that, in a worst case scenario, stock appreciation and real estate appreciation would alternate indefinitely into the future.
If one went down, the other would go up.
If they both went up, well, that was a bonus.
No one thought too much about what it would feel like if they both went down.
About every other day now, another story comes my way about a friend or relative who says, "Yeah, I sold everything in October. I couldn't take it anymore".
It's not difficult to understand that decision making process. There are enough things in life for ordinary citizens to worry about that overcoming the "fight or flight" instinct that makes us all such lousy investors doesn't rise very high on the list.
You have to wonder how they're handling it over at Money Magazine. The perma-bull staff has toned down their rhetoric in recent months as it became clear that no quick reversal was forthcoming. Last month's cover story was about keeping your money "safe" while you're waiting for the rebound.
Unless somehow we see Dow 14,000 again sometime soon (or at least Dow 10,000), the mainstream financial media and Wall Street firms are going to have a lot to answer for as it becomes increasingly clear that the ownership society that has been thrust upon Americans has not produced the results that were expected.
This well-done piece in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of how Wall Street has failed the individual investor, a concept that more and more people are beginning to realize.
With retirement accounts tumbling and millions of homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, a realization is dawning on many Americans: The banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies and other players in the financial-services industry have failed them.Adam is not alone. There are a lot of really mad people out there.
Thirty years ago, a typical consumer had a fixed-rate mortgage, a life-insurance policy, a bank account and an employer-paid pension plan. Nowadays, that same consumer may have a payment option adjustable-rate mortgage, a 401(k) retirement-savings plan, a home-equity line of credit and perhaps even a health-savings account instead of traditional employer-sponsored health insurance.
In the process, risks previously borne by big banks and employers have been placed squarely on the shoulders of consumers. Individuals increasingly bear the risk of interest-rate fluctuations, rising health-care costs, stock-market gyrations and outliving their retirement savings.
Adam Gamradt, 31 years old, of Bloomington, Minn., believes the market slide has created a great opportunity to buy stocks, but he contributes only enough to his employer's retirement-savings plan to get the full company match. That's because he is dismayed by the plan's pricey investment options and lack of information on total plan costs.
"If I'm going to buy a BMW for anybody, it should be me," says Mr. Gamradt, an information-technology worker. "I wouldn't exactly say the financial-services industry is at war with your average American consumer, but it's d- close."