Harnessing the Ups and Downs of the Market for Long-Term Success
I recently spoke with a new investor who also happens to be approaching retirement. Her primary concern is preserving her nest egg and using it to support her living expenses during her retirement years. During our conversation, it became clear that her view on investments was marred by the financial meltdown of the 90s. She admitted that she had bought some shares early in her career, but when their value fell significantly she retreated from investing. Had she continued to invest she would have benefited from the ensuing market boom as the local stock market emerged from the doldrums of the 90s and early 2000s to significant highs, including being the world’s top-performing stock market in 2015 and 2018, according to Bloomberg. This roller coaster experience in investing, where individual stocks and the overall market rise and fall over time, is known as market volatility.
The truth is that market volatility is an inherent part of investing, presenting both challenges and opportunities for investors. While the 90s meltdown was a significant event that shook the market to its core, it also left room for massive wealth-building opportunities. Michael Lee-Chin’s 2002 purchase of National Commercial Bank Limited (NCB), an asset now confirmed to have been a diamond in the rough, is a classic case of taking advantage of market volatility. Although the local economic environment was challenging and NCB’s share price was deflated, the company was in a high-growth industry and had high growth potential. By purchasing NCB shares at a discount to an already depressed market price, and staying invested, he enjoyed the proverbial roller-coaster ride as the broader economy, the financial services industry, and ultimately NCB’s performance improved. This move, considered bold at the time, turned out to be a wise investment. Over the years, the company and its stock price weathered the 2008 financial crisis and other periods of heightened market volatility before growing by more than a staggering 50 times at its peak.
The point is that, while the unpredictability of the financial markets can be intimidating, it is possible to capitalise on market volatility to enhance your investment portfolios and boost your wealth-building journey. With this in mind, and market volatility trending upward over the last 12 months, let us explore three key strategies to take advantage of market fluctuations, manage risk, and optimise returns on your investments.
One of the most effective ways we can mitigate the impact of market volatility is through diversification. By spreading investments across different asset classes, sectors, and geographical regions, investors can reduce the risk associated with individual holdings.
For instance, an investor might have a portfolio comprising 50-60 per cent stocks that are diversified with a mix of high-growth companies and stable dividend-paying companies. These stocks could then be complemented by high-yielding and long-term alternative investments and anchored by a portfolio of bonds, which gives a fixed return on investments and steady cash flow. Additionally, the investor should include some cash and other liquid assets to take advantage of the next diamond in the rough and for sudden cash flow needs. Because the prices of these asset classes tend to react differently to market conditions, diversification can mitigate the impact of adverse market movements.
Contrarian investing involves going against the prevailing market sentiment. In the words of another esteemed investor, Warren Buffet: “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” For myriad reasons, like high interest rates and negative sector reviews, investors can be spooked into selling their assets because others are selling. When this happens to undeserving assets that have strong fundamentals, the price may drop below what they are valued. In contrast, investors who are buoyed by positive news and the fear of missing out (FOMO) may overpay for an asset. These “herd” behaviours contribute to market volatility and provide opportunities for you to take advantage of the highs and the lows of investing. It can provide opportunities to go against the crowd and purchase assets with strong fundamentals that become undervalued as investors indiscriminately sell them simply because others are selling, causing the stock price to fall.
This is an investment strategy in which investors purchase assets at prices below what they are worth – intrinsic value. During periods of market volatility many fundamentally strong companies operating in solid industries may experience temporary price declines due to broader market or economic movements. With the guidance of an experienced wealth advisor, patient investors can seize the opportunity to accumulate quality assets at a discount, with the expectation that their value will be recognised over time.
Yes, market volatility can be unsettling, but it presents opportunities for patient investors. By adopting a disciplined approach, investors can navigate turbulent market conditions, capitalise on undervalued opportunities, and improve their investment portfolio returns over time. Whether through diversification, contrarian investing, value investing, or a combination of all three, the key lies in understanding that volatility is a natural part of the market cycle and can be harnessed for long-term success.
As we fully embrace the possibilities that the new year holds, it is important to maintain a long-term perspective and avoid succumbing to short-term market noise. Patient investors are better positioned to ride out market fluctuations and benefit from the compounding effects of long-term investing.