Broadly diversified portfolios structured within prudent risk parameters just do not seem to be making any money these days. The stock market has been seesawing up and down wildly all year long, but finishing right where it starts. Currency fluctuations are wiping out otherwise positive international investment returns, and bonds, if anything, are showing negative total returns due to concerns about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates.
This happens. Sometimes portfolios generate outsized returns. Other times they show painful losses. Right now, they are simply going nowhere. Over time it all evens out into (at least historically) reasonable rates of return relative to the levels of risk accepted. Folks are looking at their first and second quarter brokerage statements for 2015 and wondering if they should be doing something different.
Reacting to markets (volatility or returns), instead of focusing upon that over which we actually have control, is nearly always a blunder later regretted. As this veteran of three decades encompassing several periods of historical volatility in the markets has stated repeatedly in the past, we can and must control risk, expenses, and taxes. That is where our attention must remain focused. Returns will take care of themselves, and chasing them will only raise risk to the detriment of our long-term probability for success.
What to do in a depressingly lackluster market? Well, it is summertime. Take a vacation from the financial press, file your brokerage statements, and enjoy the lifestyle you are working, or have worked, so hard to attain. In the fall, check in with your financial advisor to review the probability of your portfolio’s current risk level sustaining that lifestyle. Then you will know whether you need to do anything – regardless of what the markets are doing at that moment.