Good news, relatively speaking, on the jobless front today, as the U.S. unemployment rate slid under 8%, its best number since January of 2009. Jobs are returning (a little). Consumer confidence is up (for now). Is it time for YOU to put your money into the stock market, that great engine of American prosperity?
For most Americans, the answer right now is a resounding "no." The WSJ has a good overview today of the ongoing post-recession exodus from stocks. Since 2009, investors have pulled well over $100 billion out of stock funds, and put much more into bond funds. "The percentage of American families who say they own stocks or stock funds slumped to 46% in 2011 from 53% in 2001," the Journal reports. "Although most people don't like to tinker with their retirement accounts, the portion allocated to stocks in 401(k)-type accounts overall fell to 61% in July from 70% in early 2007."
So, everyone is spooked and scared and the majority of people don't want to be in stocks. Smart? Dumb? Should you be in stocks?
1. Since the spring of 2009, the Dow has doubled. Doubled! In three years! If you had put your money in then, it would have doubled by now.
2. Of course, you can't time the market. If you'd invested in, say, 2007, you wouldn't have made a dime by now. Be right back where you started, pretty much.
3. That's why everyone with any sense says you should invest steadily and hold stocks until your retirement. If you'd begun investing 40 years ago like a good little beaver, you would have seen the market increase by well over 1,300%.
4. If you have two or three or four decades to leave your money in the market, stocks are a great investment. Of course, since you're clearly not that responsible, your money will probably be invested for a much shorter period of time, raising your risk considerably.
5. Still, if you settle for bonds—or even the more conservative investments of money market accounts or cash or "money under your bed"—you could well be sacrificing a whole shitload of investment gains that you could have had had you only possessed the intestinal fortitude necessary to invest in stocks.
6. Then again, given your lack of fortitude and disposable income, you're likely to pull your money out of stocks at the worst possible time, when a major decline hits, thereby locking in your losses like the amateur that you are, so maybe stocks aren't for you.
8. Do not take financial advice from blogs.