In my opinion, it is impossible to predict future stock market returns. Investment models can produce hypothetical returns but they can’t account for future events. So, in my opinion, investors who manage their investments based on market performance or what they perceive as opportunities for better returns have very little control over the outcome.
On the other hand, there may be market risk, interest rate risk, inflation risk and taxation risk. If your investment portfolio is not vulnerable to market risk it may be vulnerable to interest rate or inflation risk. In my opinion, over the long term, taxes may impede returns and portfolio performance. If it were possible to control the risks to your portfolio, then you could try to improve the long term performance of your investments.
Understanding all Risks
Some investors understand the concept of risk and reward. The risk of loss associated with the stock market is called “market risk”.
In my opinion, the investors who were rattled from the steep declines in the market during the 2008 crash, and more recently in the August 2011 plunge, may have decided they have little tolerance left for market risk, and some of them may have moved their money to “less risky” investments. The problem for these investors is they have now left their portfolio vulnerable to other adverse risks. Effectively managing all of your risks entails allocating your investments along a mix of assets that can act as counter-weights to the various types of risk.*
There is going to be inflation. When there hasn’t been inflation, there could have been deflation or stagflation, which some would consider to more dangerous conditions for investments. When investors shift their assets to low yielding or fixed yield investments to avoid market risk, they may be exposing them to inflation risk.
Interest Rate Risk
We also know that interest rates may rise; and they could fall. Unlike changes in the direction of the stock market, changes in interest rates could come with some forewarning. For instance, when the economy slows down as it has these last few years, the Federal Reserve may lower interest rates to try to stimulate economic activity. Conversely, when the economy begins to overheat, the Feds may increase rates to try to contain inflation. Generally, when interest rates rise, the prices of debt securities decrease, and in a declining interest rate environment their prices will increase.
People who stash their money in fixed yield vehicles could also be vulnerable to interest rate changes.
At one time or another, the IRS will collect its share of your investment earnings. But, as imposing as the tax code is, it may allow investors to use means to minimize taxes. Deferring taxes, which can be done using qualified retirement plans and annuities, enables your earnings to compound unimpeded by taxes so they can accumulate more quickly; however, there is usually a tax consequence when you eventually access those funds. Understanding investment taxation, such as capital gains, loss carry forward, investment income, etc., may affect the the long term growth of your assets.
In my opinion, an effective way to manage and potentially minimize investment risks is through the broad diversification of assets under a long-term investment strategy. Investors should consider their long-term objectives and overall tolerance for risk when selecting investments.
* Diversification does not necessarily produce results.
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