Four Investing Pep Talks I Give Myself When The Market is Bananas

Raise your hand if your investment accounts have been uh, less than fun to look at this year.

I’m not necessarily just talking about the recent market volatility over the past six weeks either. Nope, my portfolio with Wealthsimple has been flirting with a certain round number for a few months now.

It even crossed over it one time! But alas, it was not for long, even though I’ve been putting in hundreds of dollars per paycheque like clockwork this whole time.

I’m not new to this game, since I started investing in a market climate really similar to this one. I’m glad I started when I did, but even though I know what it’s like to keep contributing to an account that never seems to go up, it doesn’t make it any less annoying when it happens now.

So in no particular order, here are the four things that I am printing out writing on Postits (I don’t have a printer) and sticking to my laptop for when I inevitably look at my accounts and get frustrated.

A giant disclaimer: No one is supposed to even look at their portfolio when it’s on autopilot, and I am a Not Ideal Personal Finance Person on this. The best thing you can do is to stick to contributing on a regular basis, and if your investments are on autopilot, like mine are with Wealthsimple, leave them that way and avert your eyes. Looking does no good!

You chose your portfolio based on your goals, not the market.

If you’re investing with a roboadvisor like I am, it’s easy to compare your portfolio’s returns with the returns of a specific index or ETF and feel frustrated. “That cannabis ETF went up a floppity-jillion percent, so why is my portfolio only up 3% for the year???” (Estimated and/or made up numbers, clearly.)

The thing is, you have to remember that it’s a portfolio.

When you start investing, whether you want to DIY or use a rodoadvisor or work with an investment manager, the first step is to think about your goals and what you’re investing the money for. (You can learn more about this in my totally free investing course, Zero to Investing Hero.) Based on that, you’re choosing to invest in a mix of different things—not just one thing, like a cannabis ETF—that will broadly align with your risk tolerance and your goals.

Roboadvisors and investment managers will recommend the mix for you, but the key point is that this decision is based on things that are entirely outside of the market: you, your goals, your risk tolerance, and your timeline.

Those things don’t change just because the market goes whack-a-doodle for a few months, so it’s always in your best interest to stick to your original plan, not to mention “have a plan in the first place” and “understand why it’s your plan.” Again, more on that in my free investing course.

You’re still buying an absolute number of investments, even if your portfolio isn’t going up in dollar value.

Do I wish my account would just crack that round number and freaking stay there? Of course. But there’s a better number to pay attention to: the number of investments you actually own.

While it’s frustrating to look at the dollar value of your portfolio as a whole when it doesn’t want to budge, the thing to remember (at least in broad terms) is that when the market is down, you’re buying more investments for the same amount of money.

Let’s say you invest $100 per paycheque, and that each investment costs $10. Normally, you’d buy ten investments for $10 each every paycheque. If the market goes down, and the price of the investment drops to $9 each, your regular $100 contribution now buys 11 (and a bit) investments each pay period.

If you’re watching the dollar value of your portfolio, you’re probably like “Yikes, that’s a 10% drop, I am not happy” but every contribution you make while the market is down buys you more investments for the same price—which means when the market goes back up someday, you’ll be left holding even more investments than you would have in the first place.

You don’t believe in timing the market.

Tomorrow could be the biggest single day of gains in market history! It could also be a complete disaster, and everything could fall by 20%.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that truly, no matter who you are, you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If you did know for sure, like, truly 100% for sure, that’s either insider trading, which is illegal, or you should be out there making zillions of dollars with your highly accurate crystal ball.

You might see or hear people talking about actions to take based on the market, like “Now is a great time to buy!” or (and this is especially true of personal finance Twitter) “Stocks are on sale right now!” Just remember that the best thing to do is plan out your investment strategy before you start investing, and base your decisions and your plan on things unrelated to daily market moves.

Because trying to time the market isn’t a strategy, and it doesn’t result in better performance in the long term. That’s (actually) just science.

You’re in this for the long term.

Speaking of the long term, I like to keep in mind that my time horizon for this money is 30 to 35 years. And call me crazy, but I do think that over the next 30 years, my investments will go up. To date, the worst performance over a 30-year period of time for the S&P 500 was 854%. That includes some very bad *years*, but over the long term, you can see a definite trend.

That means I really don’t need to worry what happens over the course of a month, or even a few months, because I’m investing on the scale of decades. And that timeline, FYI, is what informed a lot of my investing choices and plan—if you’re closer to retirement or needing your money, or just less comfortable with risk, your before-you-invest-a-single-dollar planning will probably look a lot different than mine.

Which brings us back to pep talk one, and what this all boils down to:

You should make your investment decisions based on things that are entirely outside of the market: you, your goals, your risk tolerance, and your timeline.Click To Tweet

This has been Desirae’s Investing Pep Talks.