The biggest lesson from 35 years of investing
Working on a trading desk in the City of London on Black Monday 1987, David Polak from Capital Group felt the world really was falling apart. But nearly 31 years later, the carnage of Black Monday is barely visible on a chart of equity returns.
“It will have been many people on that day who decided that investing in equities wasn't for them, and they will have lost out on a great deal.”
Watch the full video or read the transcript below to hear David explain the biggest lesson he’s learned in nearly 35 years in the markets.
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Lessons from 35 years of investing
Yes, 35 years in the market does deliver some lessons, and some of them quite humbling. I think the biggest lesson is to stay the course and be focused on the long-term. And, when you might have an economic downturn or downturn in markets to think far enough ahead to see that as an opportunity and stay invested. Often the times when you feel most like getting out of the markets is the time when you shouldn't.
And, if we think about 2008 and 2009 and people who actually not only stayed invested but invested more in the bottom of those markets have seen fabulous returns if they put them into the right areas. And, often as not they would've seen fabulous returns even if they put them into average areas. So, staying the course for the long term is probably the biggest lesson that I've derived from 35 years in the market.
Overcoming adversity in market downturns
I first came into the stock market in 1986, and in 1987 I was at a trading desk on Black Monday, and it really did feel as if the world was falling apart. I was very privileged to be in a high paying job in the city of London at the time. And, on that particular Monday, I thought that my time was up. I hadn't been there for very long. I think I felt that I'd been found out. I had imposter syndrome. I thought it was all over.
And, when you look back on it, you can barely see Black Monday in terms of the long term chart of equity investment. It will have been many people on that day who decided that investing in equities wasn't for them, and they will have lost out on a great deal. They would have lost out maybe on a more dignified retirement. They maybe would've sent kids to school that otherwise they couldn’t have done.
So, the biggest lesson I've learned is not to panic in the short term, which is really easy to say on video, very hard to do. But, try to stay focused and invested and the moments when you feel really, really sick to your stomach, that is almost always the right time to be buying more and getting more exposure to equities in the long term.
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