Even the Best Investors Lose Money

Nicholas Boguth Contributed by: Nicholas Boguth

Even the Best Investors Lose Money

In an ideal financial planning universe, we would only invest in things that go up. We would never see our account values go down. We would never even see a negative number on our statements. Bonds would pay interest, and interest rates would be so stable that bond prices didn’t move. Stocks would pay dividends, and every company’s earnings would only grow.

Unfortunately for us, investing is not that simple. There is no growth without risk. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is guaranteed to appreciate. Even the world’s best investors lose money from time to time, but what makes them the best investors is how they react when those losses happen.

Let’s take a look at Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, and how his stock has done compared to the S&P 500 (a collection of the 500 largest public U.S. companies) over the past 25 years. Is it all positive? Does he beat the S&P 500 every year? If he did lose to the S&P 500, was it close? Would you stick with him for the following year?

Data: Morningstar Direct. Total Return.

Data: Morningstar Direct. Total Return.

What stands out to you? Two things jumped out at me:

  1. Both were negative five out of the past 25 years.
    Even one of the best investors in the world lost money the SAME number of times as the S&P 500.

  2. Buffett returned less than the S&P 500 nine times, and one of those times was by more than 40%!
    If you looked at your statement and saw that your $10,000 turned into $8,000, while everyone who owned just the 500 biggest U.S. companies now had $12,000, would you stick with Buffett or would you switch investments?

Investing is hard because of risk. Investments depreciate or underperform for years at a time. You can’t avoid this fact. One thing you can avoid is making decisions that ultimately may be harmful to your goals, by having a plan in place for those years when investments aren’t going the way you’d like.

Don’t have a plan? We would be glad to help.

Nicholas Boguth is an Investment Research Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He performs investment research and assists with the management of client portfolios.

Any opinions are those of Nicholas Boguth and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for illustration purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation of any investment mentioned. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. The S&P 500 index is comprised of approximately 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. It is unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.