Saturday, July 12, 2008

Don't Panic - Buy Index Funds and Real Estate

by Ben Stein at Yahoo Finance

Now for some reassuring words. Of all of the columnists writing in this space, I suspect I am the oldest. This means I have seen the most economic fluctuations. This also means I am less terrified about them than younger heads.

Let me put this differently. I read recently in The Wall Street Journal that the stock market was at the time of that writing almost in "Bear Market Territory," which is to say, down roughly 20% or more from its high. This, said the author of the piece, shows that we are about to have very bad economic times. The author helpfully noted that the market has been down into "Bear Market Territory " some nine times since the mid-1960's. Without doubt, this author was trying to do his best, and to serve his readers.

But here's a relevant addendum: yes, the market may have fallen 20% or more nine times since then. But there have only been five recessions since then.
That is to say, the stock market predicts 10 out of five recessions. Not such a great record...

However, let's assume we do have a recession. I hope we don't, but we might. What do we do about it? What can we do about it? Just keep plugging along. Just keep buying broad indexes. Just keep a good chunk of liquid assets. None of us can control the economy. Thus, we just have to keep swimming in the roiled waters.

As we cling to our life jackets, please remember this: no recession lasts forever. I can well recall so many times in the past when every single headline in The Wall Street Journal was about some record growth of sales or profits. Then time passes and every single headline is about horrible news. Then time passes and there is mixed news, and then it's all good news again.

Economies go through cycles. But the long-term trend is up...

The plain fact is that you don't know when real estate will be at bottom until it's too late. If you see a home you love, buy it now if you plan to be in it a long time. And know that the headline writers want to whip you up and make you crazy about the economy. They sell fear. Stay calm and stay well to do.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE