Monday, December 28, 2020

Investing lessons from the COVID pandemic

 2020 has been an eventful year for investors – one that they are unlikely to forget anytime soon in their lifetime. In many ways it has been similar to 2008, the only difference being that both the downside and upside in 2020 has been much more rapid than in 2008. Surely 2020 is one for the ages – tales about the pandemic and how investors first lost money and then made more money will be narrated to progeny on many a dinner table. So what investing lessons can we take from this pandemic? Here are some that I have put together in no particular order.

Take volatility in your stride

Stock markets are volatile in the short term. That is because all kinds of people – from traders to Institutional Investors with different time horizons – are plugged into the markets every day, each one trying to work it for their own benefit. Consequently ups and downs are a natural attribute of the stock market. Hence do not be perturbed by volatility. Learn to ignore it or if possible even take advantage of it – to invest even more on every significant correction. 

Invest for the long term

Remember that behind every stock that is trading in the market, there is a real business that is serving real Customers and generating real revenues. As long as the overall economy is growing (which it will, because this is a common objective of all Governments worldwide), many of these businesses will prosper and grow faster than the economy and will be rewarded by the stock markets. This takes time – months and even years. Always invest for the long term and have the patience to let the markets reward your conviction.

Stay Diversified

In the past 20 years, not a single investment asset class — Large Cap Stocks, Small Cap Stocks, Real Estate, International Markets, Gold to name a few — had the best returns in back-to-back years. Each year the best investment category flip-flopped. Staying diversified, as per your recommended asset allocation, gives your portfolio the best chance to benefit from all asset classes in the long term

Focus on Asset Allocation

Long term wealth is created not so much from superlative returns in the stock markets as much as from a judicious mix of asset categories in your portfolio. Assets such as Debt, Real Estate, Gold, etc. have their days in the sun and are also capable of generating superlative returns. Hence always focus on the asset category mix of your portfolio in order to generate wealth for the long term.

Rebalance your portfolio regularly

Business performance changes over time with changing market conditions. For instance, in 2020 Technology stocks have done very well due to the high demand for Work from Home whereas Airline stocks have languished due to the diminished travel demand. If you could have foreseen this change in March/April 2020 and rebalanced your portfolio accordingly, it would have performed very handsomely at the end of the year. At this time technology stocks have run up too much and further upside may be limited. This may create demand for value stocks once again. Hence rebalancing your portfolio for this change may help you in 2021.  

So there you have it – a mini capsule of investing lessons from 2020. These lessons are not revelations – they have been repeated ad nauseam by various investment experts using different words and sentences. Yet many of them remain in theory and rarely get implemented in their true spirit. This is where an Investment Adviser can help. If you are not able to implement these lessons on your own, then consider hiring an expert to advise you on your portfolio and be by your side to help you navigate the markets ups and downs. 

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