The markets have thrown everyone for a loop.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, you may be in need of hard-to-find credit.
As homeowners--or for those customers who are homeowners--the feeling of uncertainty can wreak havoc on future plans.
As an investor, and as an owner of a significant asset--your business--you may wonder if you've permanently lost some of the value you've accumulated from all your hard work.
My prognosis--as an Inc. blogger asked to present views about investing--is that the situation in front of us is a dire, but not insurmountable.
I won't address the concerns of those needing credit or homeowners struggling with upside down values in their homes except to say this: For most of you, it is essential that confidence be restored in credit markets so that you can do what you do best: create value and wealth. Getting the wheels to turn in these markets again is as essential as keeping the water systems flowing and the electricity running. They make your businesses work and they make America work.
I sincerely hope that, with pending legislation in front of the U.S. Congress, they make very smart short-term decisions (restore confidence by creating a market floor on deteriorating assets) while building controls to prevent the taxpayer money from being misused (already, plenty of sharks are lining up on Wall Street to manipulate this upcoming windfall in their favor).
The reality is that the long term markets need new and modern regulation. The reason why this whole alternative investment side-show (securitized mortgages and the like) became so big was that investing in the plain old stock market has gotten difficult. New regulations have slowed our markets down while these side markets and other nations' markets have been relatively free of regulation. While I am always a fan of transparency in the markets, I'm not in favor of inefficiencies that slow down progress. And that's what our current regulatory structure does. A balance must be struck.
As for the outlook for investors, if you are an investor who uses "The Only Guide to Investing an Entrepreneur Will Ever Need", I believe you are in good shape. Let me remind you that virtually all of my assets are invested according to the basic rules of this simple investing strategy. The reason for my confidence is that these investments adhere, to the best of my ability, to the nine criteria of smart investing and follow the tenets of "The Only Guide to Investing an Entrepreneur Will Ever Need."
In particular, being diversified and leveraging the magical formula of "dollar-cost averaging" during times like these put something of a smile in my face. As the markets go up and down like a yo-yo, I can sleep easy knowing that I'm buying exactly the right amount for my budget.
Let me share a couple of observations I've seen recently in my conversations with regular investors:
First, a young entrepreneur I know told me he was upset about his 401(k) dropping in value. I asked him where he shopped for clothing. "Express," he said, citing a men's clothing store that doesn't make clothing in my size (but I'm not bitter).
"What if," I said, " Express Men's offered you two choices: one is to have the clothing cost more every year for the next 10 years? Or less every year? Which would you choose?"
"Less," he said, of course.
"So why would you want to pay more for your stocks every year? When the market goes up, you pay more for stocks, just as you would for socks from Express."
His concerns are redolent of most regular investors concerns: it's hard to understand the fundamentals of why a long term outlook in investing is so potent. For more on this, read "The Only Guide to Investing an Entrepreneur Will Ever Need" manifesto.
I've spoken to other investors who are closer to retirement and are concerned about the loss of value in their portfolios. In fact, this concern pre-dates the recent market turbulence. Studies show that pre-retirees number one concern is not having enough assets in retirement.
Okay, so there are three basic ways to address this:
First, have you figured out how much you'll really need in retirement and how much you really have? If not, consider going to a financial advisor for some help and advice on this issue.
Second, if you have too little, you have three choices: save more, spend less and work longer. Or a mix of all three. There's nothing wrong with conservation and living below your means. It's healthy, and frankly you may not have a choice. As for working longer, look, the world is changing. The old notion of "65 and out" is antiquated. Instead, find something you love to do and do it for as long as you can. I wrote about the new retirement ("70 is the new 50") recently for Investment Advisor magazine.
Third, allocate your assets differently. As you near retirement, you want to put less of the money into stocks and more into "fixed income" instruments like bonds and annuities. While this may slow down the growth of your money, it will help add clarity to your short- and medium-term planning. Again, a financial advisor is a very valuable resource for this kind of planning.
Later today I'll be addressing thousands of financial advisors on how best to support their clients during these disturbing days. It's a critical issue that we all face, whether your in the financial services industry or a customer (or both).
In the end, my greatest confidence is in the entrepreneurial zeal and energy of America's business owners. They are the savviest, most committed population the world has ever known. We may not have volunteered to clean up Wall Street's mess, but it's probably going to fall on our shoulders. So, let's "man up" (ladies, too) and get to work.
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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