Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My oh my, how far we've come!

Someone says to me recently "So Marty, it seems like the market is so high I feel like it's just going to come crashing down any minute. Should I just get out of the way now and be ready to buy back after it crashes?"

With all due respect, that kind of question (a frequently asked kind of question) virtually proves that the individual investor has little clue when it comes to the stock market in general, and/or how to look at it from a valuation standpoint (but that's okay, that's why I have a job). The untutored investor tends to look at investing in terms of numbers: He's thinking the Dow is at 16,200 today, and it was at 14,400 the last time it peaked---before plunging to 6,600 over the ensuing year and a half. Therefore, being that the Dow is 2,200 points higher than the last peak, the bubble's gotta pop, and soon---without any regard whatsoever for the various valuation ratios, balance sheets, profit margins, interest rates, etc.

That said, I really shouldn't be so hard on the individual investor. Especially when I consider the commentaries of so many professional investors. As I watch CNBC, listen to Bloomberg and read other professionals' commentaries (which, for my sins, I must) I realize that---for all of his/her valuating and chart-gazing, the typical professional investor/adviser can be, in fact often is, every bit as mixed up as is the individual investor.

As for yours truly, being that I know my brain sports no more than average capacity, I won't even begin, my vocation notwithstanding, to forecast the future of the stock market.

Do you see the asset I bring to my clientele? The fact that I know my limitations.

In fact, with regard to prognosticating the market, not only do I know my own limitations, I know the limitations of every fortuneteller who's been fortunate enough to make the media circuit: Not a single one of them, for all their sophisticated tools and cognitive talent, has the capacity to know the future. While the very brightest can be very convincing, the fact that in most cases, I fear, they've convinced themselves that they indeed know the future, says something about the correlation between the measure of one's mental capacity and the size of one's ego. And, sadly, the larger the adviser's ego, the lesser the value (and, potentially, the higher the risk) he is to those whom he advises.

Note: My criticism is of those who make hard-fast predictions. There are indeed many thoughtful analysts who explore history, the fundamentals and the technicals in their efforts to intelligently assess the environment and make the best possible recommendations on behalf of their clients---without predicting the near-term future.

All that said, I will of course continue to offer up my thoughts with regard to history, fundamentals, technicals, the global economy and, alas, public policy (there'll be some coming later this week), and how all that impacts the recommendations we make to our clients. But for today, I thought I'd focus on what I believe you, me, and all those geniuses ought to be able to agree on---in terms of why one should own stocks (in the appropriate quantity) for the long-term:

I believe we all can, but surely won't, agree that the paradigms of our children, and their children, and their children's children will expand beyond yours and my wildest imagination. I believe we've barely scratched the surface in terms of the evolutionary potential of virtually all manner of technology. Think in terms of the improvement of the human condition over the past century. Heck, think in terms of the past half-century. Think back to life in the 70s, and know that anyone who would dare assert that the average American, at every rung of the income ladder, hasn't experienced an utterly amazing improvement in his/her overall quality of life, has to have some political motivation in making such a ludicrous assertion.

We have no reason to believe that future generations won't look back to 2014, just as you and I look back to 1974 (1984, 1994, 2004), and think My oh my, how far we've come!

Make no mistake, you want to own the companies that will create and benefit (in virtually every sector) from the inevitable miracles of technology to come...


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