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We've Seen The Whole Play Now

What have we learned?

Back in February, the economy was cruising along with the lowest unemployment rate – ever.   The stock market was rising anticipating even better things in the future.

Then, suddenly, the Black Swan landed in our pond.  

Covid-19 had arrived on US shores and spread like no other virus – ever.

With a span of 33 days, the S&P 500 index fell from 3386 to 21912 – a decline of 35%.   The fastest decline of that magnitude – ever.

On March 23rd, The Fed announced that they would backstop everything and provide unlimited funding.1  To which the stock market responded positively.   No vaccine was yet available (though many companies were and are working feverishly towards development).

Between March 24 and September 2, the market rose 1,390  points to 35812.    The index has since fallen back to around 3367 as I write this.

So, what have we learned?

  1. The most dramatic and impactful events come out of the bleachers.    They are there, but no one can see them.
  2.  No one anticipates these Black Swan events.
  3. The media seize on these crises with breathless, non-stop reporting.
  4. Declines are a fairly common occurrence since WWII.   A 30% drop occurs on average about one in five years.3
  5. Bear markets end.
  6. Subsequent market recoveries are often swift and powerful.
  7. People wait for the other shoe to drop.  This costs capital.
  8. You cannot time the market decline nor its recovery.    Trying to do so usually costs capital.
  9. The stock market tends to recover long before the economy does.
  10. Goal-focused, long-term investors highest probability of success strategy is simply play cowboy and ride it out.
  11. It’s hard to buy into market declines.   Profitable, but hard.

If your recent experiences in the market left you regretting your actions and results, consider sending us an email or making a phone call.  One of our strengths is helping people avoid big mistakes that ruin retirements.

The opinions expressed are those of Michael Magnuson and not necessarily those of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.


  1. https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/monetary20200323b.htm
  2. https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/%5EGSPC?p=^GSPC
  3. Simple Wealth Inevitable Wealth, pg. 68-69.   74 years, 15 declines averaging 31%.   Just about 1 in 5 years on average.


Volatility Fatigue

April 2, 2020

Here is a story I recount to people. It reinforces what to do and not do with your investments.

There was a couple, let’s call them the Jones’, who owned a portfolio of 50% equity mutual funds and 50% bonds. This couple and their portfolio had endured the dot.com tech boom and bust, the 9/11 attacks and the market declines from the accounting scandals. They then profited from the market rise from 2003 to 2007.

Their confidence was shattered in 2008 when Lehman Bros collapsed. They suffered a $75,000 loss on a Lehman Bros bond. (Not an equity fund – a bond.)

Having suffered that bond loss and now having much less confidence in the financial system, they nonetheless continued to hold their mutual funds.

If you recall, the Financial Crisis market bottom occurred on March 9, 2009. By continuing to hold their portfolio, they began to participate in the markets inexorable rise. And they held their funds until May 2010. The “flash crash” happened on May 10, 2010 and on May 20, the couple told their financial advisor to sell the last of their equity mutual funds.

They just couldn’t take the volatility anymore. Volatility fatigue had set in. They could not diffuse it. So, they bailed. And for a while they probably felt some comfort. They had sold. The volatility was gone – there was less to worry about.

I wonder how long it was before they started noticing the equity market rising… and rising. At some point, I suspect they began to experience regret for something they did but later wished they had not done.

So, to recap, they held during the dot.com bust, 9/11,  2001 -2003 – the tough times, they held through the Financial Crisis to the bottom, held through the early part of the recovery and were scared out of the market by a one hour – ephemeral – market disruption.

Since May 20, the “market” – let’s use the S&P 500 index as the proxy – has risen from 1071.59 (let’s just round it to 1072) to yesterday’s (4/1/20) closing amount of 2470. That’s a 130% increase in value (without counting dividends).

That’s an average annual return of about 8.8% - again, not counting dividends. Throw in 2% for dividends (again rounding) and you get 10.8%

And this 10.8% is after the market has done a power dive from 3386 on February 19, 2020 to the present 2470 – a 27% decline in just about 30 days. The fastest market decline … ever.

What did the family earn in their bond holdings and CD’s since 2010? There is no way of knowing (without asking them). But if they had a diversified portfolio of bonds since then, it is possible that they may have earned about 3.85%.1

So, 10.8% vs. 3.8% over 10 years. That makes quite a difference in your retirement spending.

Markets are volatile, especially now. People who hang in there, avoiding the emotional pull to “do something” because “this time is different” or “I just can’t take it anymore” typically have a much higher probability of avoiding regret than those that panic and bail. Remember, markets can be volatile to the upside, too.

Opinions expressed are those of Michael Magnuson and not necessarily those of Lincoln Financial Advisors.

This story is hypothetical and for illustrative purposes. It is not indicative of any particular investment or performance and actual results may be different. Diversification may help reduce but cannot eliminate risk of investment losses. There is no guarantee that by assuming more risk, you will achieve higher returns.

S&P 500 index data from FinanceYahoo.com. The S&P 500 consists of 500 stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation. It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value. Past performance isn’t indicative of future performance. An index is unmanaged, and one cannot invest directly in an index.

1 https://www.ishares.com/us/products/239458/ishares-core-total-us-bond-market-etf
2 Source:  Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2010, “Investors Flee Stocks, Changing Market Dynamics”




January 22, 2020

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to encourage retirement savings, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


  1. Short Title.—This Act may be cited as the “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019.

The SECURE Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, H.R. 1865.

So much for the legislative history. Here are 10 provisions that might affect individuals.

  1. The End of The Stretch IRA. Non-spouse beneficiaries (like your children, family members and friends) of certain inherited IRAs and qualified plans must withdraw all money from inherited accounts within 10 years of the original owner’s death. Spousal rollovers, as well as a disable or chronically ill designated beneficiary continue are exceptions to the new 10 year rule.

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One Way To Help Improve Your Long-Term Investment Performance

"The combination of loss aversion and narrow framing is a costly curse. Individual investors can avoid that curse, achieving the emotional benefits of broad framing while also saving time and agony, by reducing the frequency with which they check how well their investments are doing.

Closely following daily fluctuations is a losing proposition, because the pain of the frequent small losses exceeds the pleasure of the equally frequent small gains. Once a quarter is enough, and may be more than enough for individual investors. In addition to improving the emotional quality of life, the deliberate avoidance for exposure to short-term outcomes improves the quality of both decisions and outcomes.

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What Does the Bear Market Chart Tell You?

Since WWII, we have experienced 14 Bear markets (and I am not counting the Panic of 2018 when the market fell 19.8% and recovered in under 4 months). The average drawdown for these Bear markets was 31% and the bear market lasted 14.2 months, on average, from peak to trough. The recovery times varied.  Months to recovery is on the right.

Bear markets are ordinary, temporary, common as dirt and painful to experience. You can expect to see another – the question is when. The next recession (the likely cause of the next bear market) will have been the most anxiously, long-awaited recession in my lifetime. The financial media talks about it incessantly. Rest assured, no one will be happy once it arrives. We want to know when the bear will enter the room…but no one does.

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How To Lose 15% Of Your Retirement Fund

May 21, 2019

The Panic

During December 2018, when the market was declining -scratch that - panicking, and stock prices were getting less expensive, investors sold $28.9 Billion of US equity mutual funds and ETFs and they sold $29 Billion of Non-US mutual funds and ETFs. $57 Billion formerly invested in equities went somewhere. Bond funds experienced $49 Billion of outflows as well. Was it mattress time? Since there are always two sides to a trade, some investors made out well to the detriment of others.

In December, the S&P 500 index declined 10%. The net selling stopped on Christmas Eve and at that point the index was down 15.7%.

The Recovery

January through March, US funds had outflows of $16.6 Billion and World funds had inflows of $4.6 Billion. Net equity outflows were $12 Billion.

But during April and so far in May, $27 Billion of equity fund outflows have occurred. US outflows were $19.8 Billion and Non-US was $7.7 Billion.

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Thinking About Making A Back-Door Roth IRA Contribution?

People who are otherwise precluded from making direct Roth IRA contributions may consider the two-step back-door Roth IRA. As usual, the devil is in the details.

The “cream in the coffee” rule applies to back-door Roth IRA’s.

That means, if you hold assets in a traditional IRA and you make a nondeductible contribution to your traditional IRA, and then make a distribution from your traditional IRA to your Roth IRA, only a percentage of the distribution from the IRA to the Roth IRA will be tax-free.

If you have more than one IRA, all IRA distributions are treated as one distribution.

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Are There Problems Hiding In Your 401(k)?

I’m not referring to whether you’re investing in 5 star or 1 star funds.

  • Is your 401(k) on autopilot?
  • Did you make your fund selections by looking at recent performance numbers and piling into the fund with the best performance last year?
  • Did the number of fund choices get too complicated?
  • Did you allocate a percentage to each fund offered?

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What's The Market Going To Do?

That’s a question I am frequently asked when I meet someone and they learn I am a financial planner. (Believe me, if I knew what the market was going to do, I’d be doing everything in my power to take advantage of that uncommon knowledge.)

It sure makes for lively TV debates and compelling reading though, doesn’t it? Every TV guest and financial journalist (with or without a finance background) has an opinion. Some express their opinion forcefully as if that will transform their opinion into fact.

Sadly, no one knows. The economy won’t tell you either. And yet forecasters spend time trying to link the economy and the market to portray the economy a predictor of the markets.

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A Little History: Ten Years After … from Barrons’s – July 7, 2008

“IT'S OFFICIAL: THE BEAR HAS ARRIVED. The Dow Jones Industrial Average last week qualified for the widely accepted definition of a bear market of a 20% drop from the highs. The good news is that once the decline reaches that arbitrary 20% mark, based on history, the market has suffered most of its losses. The bad news is that the decline typically drags on for some time, and time may be the worst enemy. Investors may initially try to grab erstwhile highfliers that have crashed and burned but rarely regain their former status. And as the decline wears down investors' psyches, they tend to bail out at the market's nadir, when things look bleakest -- and when the greatest opportunities present themselves.

The post-1940 average bear market (as defined by the Standard & Poor's 500 index) produced a decline of 30.4% from a peak that took 386 days to reach its trough, according to data compiled by Bespoke Investment Group. By the time the market was down the requisite 20%, the average bear market was 74% completed. Based On those averages, the bear market would have another 118 days to run and would face losses of another 14% from current levels.

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Starting To Worry About The Market?

The higher the stock market moves, the more money it attracts from investors who don’t want to miss out. And the more nervous investors feel about the possibility (or should I say probability) of market declines. The worry of a market decline is acute if you are older and have accumulated significant assets. The pain of a decline will be sharper because the temporary disappearance of more real dollars. Percentages don’t hurt as much.

How about a few facts?

Since 1948 (we call this the modern era), intra-year declines have averaged 13.4% and the return of the S&P 500 index has been positive in 51 of those 70 years.1

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Playing a Long-term Game With a Short-term Strategy?

This brochure provides a long-term perspective on investing...and may challenge you to alter your current investment strategy.

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