Exponential Or Compounding Nature In Investing
We have pondered some astounding facts on arithmetic in investing in some previous newsletters like:
- March 23, 2015: Investment Arithmetic for Long Term Investments
- June 9, 2014: The Arithmetic of Investment Mistakes
The arithmetic facts are simple enough for people with middle school level education to understand. However, even many sophisticated individuals with much higher education can ignore and misunderstand these in investing. Just as physicist Albert Bartlett put it:
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
Let’s look at some of the other interesting facts.
Some well-known loss arithmetic (see the first newsletter cited above) includes a loss of 50% needs a 100% gain to make it back. However, loss in investments is usually unfolded in a process, not in one fell swoop. In fact, in a typical bear market, the loss can happen in several stages. For example,
- 90% loss is first to lose 50% and then another 80%
- 60% loss is first to lose 20% and then another 50% or
- 60% loss is to lose 20%, another 20% and then another 37.8%
The point here is that you might first experience a 20% loss, a common definition of a bear market, only to see the loss accelerates more. What’s more, 50%+80% is much bigger than 90%. Same for 20%+20%+37.8% vs. 60%.
Put it another way, in a loss situation, compounding works against investors to inflict much bigger pain to incite fear, one of the twin evils in investing.
On the other hand, assume you are losing 1% a year, do you know how long it will take for you to lose 50%? You would guess less than 50 years, right? Wrong, it actually takes 69 years to do so. Again, we are fooled by the exponential functions. In this case, steady constant loss saves us or slows down the loss process.
However, if you would only be getting 9% annual return instead of 10% each year, how much worse you would be after 30 years, assuming you start with $100k?
10%: you would get $1.7 million after 30 years
9%: 1.3 million after 30 years.
A 30% less from the 9% point of view! On the other hand, if you would only get 8% annual return instead, that’ll be 75% difference!
Fun facts on Buffett’s wealth
We all know that Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest in the world. To be more precise, he is worth about $81 billion today. But do you know that among this $81 billion, $80.7 billion was accumulated after his 50th birthday! So majority or 99.6% of his wealth was after he was 50 years old.
Of course, one of the important lessons from Buffett’s wealth accumulation is that he started to invest very early, or when he was 10 years old. By the time he was 30, he already had about $1 million, or $9.3 million in today’s dollar after adjusted for inflation.
But don’t despair, say if you were a youngster who only started with $10,000 when you were 30, instead of Buffett’s $1 million. Assuming you have his patience and investing prowess and getting the same returns since then. You would have accumulated $810 million today. No bad at all, though you won’t be in the billionaire club. Still compounding works for you, just not as much as if you would start early.
However, that’s still a 99% difference. Unfortunately, the effect of the late start is permanent. In fact, in June 9, 2014: The Arithmetic of Investment Mistakes newsletter, we illustrated this fact by the example of an investment mistake made just in one year.
To summarize, the nature of compounding or exponential growth or loss can surprise us. Little things like start early even with little money, minimize mistakes or loss instead of going for bigger gain (thus higher possibility for bigger loss) and year in and year out consistently stick to a plan can go a long way in wealth accumulation and preservation.
The inability for stocks to recover has increased the possibility of a much greater correction. The following chart shows since February 2nd, this correctional process has drawn out for more than 2 months now:
The major stock indexes are all languishing since February. Put it another way, the current correction increasingly looks like a top formation process. Currently, investors have a hefty hope on the last quarter’s earnings growth. On the other hand, given the lofty stock valuation and many policy uncertainties such as a trade war with China, the risk is abundant and even some small-scale events can trigger an avalanche of loss. As always, stay the course and manage risk vigilantly.
For more detailed asset trend scores, please refer to 360° Market Overview.
Now that the Trump administration has been in the office for more than a year, the economy and financial markets are in general still in a good shape. Whether the economy will continue to benefit from the supposedly trickle down of the tax cut, the deregulation, and the promised infrastructure spending remains to be seen. On the other hand, stocks continued to ascend, regardless of the progress. Looking ahead, however, we remain convinced that markets will experience more volatilities at some point when reality finally sets in.
In terms of investments, U.S. stock valuation is at a historically high level. It is thus not a good time to take excessive risk. However, we remain optimistic about U.S. economy in the long term and believe much better investment opportunities will arise in the future.
We again would like to stress for any new investor and new money, the best way to step into this kind of markets is through dollar cost average (DCA), i.e. invest and/or follow a model portfolio in several phases (such as 2 or 3 months) instead of the whole sum at one shot.
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–Thanks to those who have already contributed — we appreciate it.
- April 2, 2018: Inside Of The Stock Chaos
- March 26, 2018: Total Return Bond Update
- March 19, 2018: Treasury Bills vs. Brokered CDs
- March 12, 2018: Defensive Conservative Portfolio Review
- March 5, 2018: Warren Buffett’s Advices
- February 26, 2018: Pros And Cons of Strategic And Tactical Portfolios In 2018
- February 12, 2018: Trend Review
- February 5, 2018: Market Selloff And Long Term Investing
- January 29, 2018: The New Addition To Our Total Return Bond Fund Candidates
- January 22, 2018: Where Are Bonds Heading?
- January 15, 2018: Tactical Portfolios Review
- January 8, 2018: Strategic Portfolios Review
- December 18, 2017: Record Highs And Risk
- December 11, 2017: Cash Return And Interest Rate Update
- December 4, 2017: Mutual Fund Star Ratings: Are They Useful?
- November 20, 2017: Thankful And Mindful
- November 13, 2017: Is This A Good Time For Retirees Or Would Be Retirees?
- November 6, 2017: Newsletter Collection Update
- October 30, 2017: Rising Interest Rates
- October 23, 2017: A Primer For Portfolios
- October 16, 2017: REITs As An Asset Class
- October 9, 2017: Conservative Portfolios Revisited
- October 2, 2017: The Role of Short Term Bond Funds
- September 25, 2017: Fees In Cash Investments
- September 18, 2017: Conservative Portfolios Review
- September 11, 2017: International Diversification Effect
- September 4, 2017: Invest And Speculate Revisited
- August 28, 2017: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios: Where Do They Fit?
- August 21, 2017: Portfolio Performance: A Walk In The Past
- August 14, 2017: Fidelity Commission Free ETFs Update
- August 7, 2017: I Didn’t Learn Anything — Mistake vs. Temporary Underperformance
- July 31, 2017: Asset Classes And Fund Choices: A Primer
- July 24, 2017: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios And Cash
- July 17, 2017: Long Term Stock Holding Periods For Retirement
- July 10, 2017: Half Year Asset Trend Review
- June 26, 2017: How To Beat The Best Balanced Allocation Fund
- June 19, 2017: Newsletter Collection Update
- June 12, 2017: A Mixed Bag Performance of Momentum Investing
- June 5, 2017: How To Start A New Portfolio
- May 29, 2017: Alternative Assets And Their Role In Portfolios
- May 22, 2017: Summer Seasonality And Portfolio Management
- May 15, 2017: Cash: Banking Or Investing?
- May 8, 2017: Holding Period of Long Term Timing Portfolios
- May 1, 2017: Debate on Risk vs. Volatility
- April 24, 2017: The Long Term Stock Market Timing Return Since 1871
- April 17, 2017: Risk vs. Volatility: Long Term Stock Market Returns
- April 10, 2017: Total Return Bond ETFs And Portfolios
- April 3, 2017: Quarter End Asset Trend Review
- March 27, 2017: Practical Consideration For IRAs And 401k Accounts
- March 20, 2017: Fund Fees: That’s (Still) Outrageous
- March 13, 2017: Long Term Stock Valuation Review
- March 6, 2017: Asset Classes for Retirement Investments
- February 27, 2017: Fidelity Total Bond Fund Review
- February 20, 2017: Long Term Stock Timing Based Portfolios And Their Roles
- February 13, 2017: Alternative Investment Portfolios Review
- February 6, 2017: Tax Free Municipal Bond Investments Review
- January 30, 2017: Brokerage Specific Conservative Portfolios
- January 23, 2017: Fixed Income Portfolio Review
- January 16, 2017: Long Term Trend Following Portfolio Review
- January 9, 2017: Tactical Asset Allocation Review
- January 3, 2017: Strategic Asset Allocation Review
- December 12, 2016: Enhanced Index Funds
- December 5, 2016: Review Of Broad Base Core Mutual Funds For Brokerages
- November 28, 2016: Core Index ETFs Review
- November 21, 2016: International Exposure Of U.S. Large Companies
- November 14, 2016: Asset Trends After The Election
- November 7, 2016: Rising Rate And Current Bond Trend
- October 31, 2016: Economy Power And Long Term Stock Returns
- October 24, 2016: Current Commodity Trend And Managed Futures
- October 17, 2016: Investment Mistakes And Good Or Bad Investment Strategies
- October 10, 2016: Momentum Investing Review
- October 3, 2016: Survey & Feedback
- September 26, 2016: Fixed Income Investing: Actively Managed Funds vs. Index Funds
- September 19, 2016: Stock Investing: Actively Managed Funds vs. Index Funds
- September 12, 2016: Newsletter Update
- September 5, 2016: Overvalued Markets And Long Term Timing Strategies
- August 29, 2016: Your 401K Finally Draws Attention
- August 22, 2016: Inflation Protected Securities TIPS For Current Overvalued Markets
- August 15, 2016: Risk On: Emerging Market Stocks And Small Cap Stocks
- August 8, 2016: Portfolio Construction Using Stock ETFs And Bond Mutual Funds
- August 1, 2016: Adding Value To Your Own Investments
- July 25, 2016: Tactical Asset Allocation Funds Review
- July 18, 2016: Strategic Asset Allocation & Lazy Portfolio Review
- July 11, 2016: Asset Trend Review
- June 27, 2016: Secular Cycles For Tactical And Strategic Investment Strategies
- June 20, 2016: A World of Debt
- June 13, 2016: Managed Futures For Portfolio Building
- June 6, 2016: Newsletter Summary
- May 30, 2016: Swensen Portfolio And Permanent Portfolios
- May 23, 2016: AAII Article And Some Web Changes
- May 16, 2016: The PIMCO (Dis)Advantages
- May 9, 2016: Boost Your Dull Summer Investments
- May 2, 2016: Low Cost Index Fund Investing
- April 25, 2016: Tax Free Municipal Bond Funds & Portfolios
- April 18, 2016: Asset Class Trend Review
- April 11, 2016: Construction of Sound And Conservative Portfolios
- March 28, 2016: Total Return Bond ETFs Review
- March 21, 2016: Small And Large Company Stock Performance In Different Economic Expansion Cycles
- March 14, 2016: Are Tactical And Timing Strategies Losing Steam?
- March 7, 2016: Defined Maturity Bond Fund Analysis
- February 29, 2016: Smart Strategic Asset Allocation Rebalance When Market Trend Changes
- February 22, 2016: Be Cash Smart
- February 15, 2016: Bond ETF Portfolios
- February 8, 2016: Newsletter Collection Update
- February 1, 2016: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios In A Volatile Period
- January 25, 2016: Alternative Portfolios Review
- January 18, 2016: Strategic Asset Allocation: A Cautious Outlook
- January 11, 2016: Review Of Trend Following Tactical Asset Allocation
- January 4, 2016: What Worked And Didn’t In 2015
- December 21, 2015: Distressed Assets
- December 14, 2015: High Yield Bonds And Their Correlation With Stocks
- December 7, 2015: Diversification And Global Allocation
- November 30, 2015: Investors and Speculators Combined
- November 23, 2015: Active Stock Fund Performance Consistency
- November 16, 2015: Permanent, Risk Parity And Alternative Portfolios Review
- November 9, 2015: Broad Base Core Mutual Fund Review
- November 2, 2015: Broad Base Index Core ETFs Review
- October 26, 2015: Total Return Bond Fund Review
- October 19, 2015: Advanced Portfolio Review
- October 12, 2015: What About Commodities?
- October 5, 2015: Core Satellite Portfolios In A 401k Account
- September 28, 2015: Risk Managed Strategic Asset Allocation Portfolios Revisited
- September 21, 2015: Quest For The Best Investment Strategy
- September 14, 2015: Core Satellite Portfolios In Market Turmoil
- September 7, 2015: Market Rout Creates An Opportunity to Reposition Your Portfolios
- August 31, 2015: Review of Asset Allocation Funds and Portfolios
- August 24, 2015: Market Rout And Your Portfolios
- August 17, 2015: ETF or Mutual Fund Based Portfolios
- August 10, 2015: Updated Newsletter Collection
- August 3, 2015: Slippery Asset Trends
- July 27, 2015: Performance Dispersion Among Momentum Based Portfolios
- July 20, 2015: Global Balanced Portfolio Benchmarks
- July 13, 2015: Pain in Tactical Portfolios
- July 6, 2015: Fixed Income Total Return Bond Funds In Strategic Asset Allocation Portfolios
- June 29, 2015: Core ETF Commission Free Portfolios
- June 22, 2015: Secular Asset Trends
- June 15, 2015: Giving Up Bonds?
- June 1, 2015: Summer Blues?
- May 26, 2015: Cash, Bonds and Stocks In A Rising Rate Environment
- May 18, 2015: Portfolio Update
- May 11, 2015: Pain in Fixed Income?
- May 4, 2015: The Balanced Stock and Long Term Treasury Bond Portfolios
- April 27, 2015: Long Term Treasury Bond Behavior
- April 20, 2015: 529 College Savings Plan Rebalance Policy Change
- April 13, 2015: Total Return Bond Funds As Smart Cash
- April 6, 2015: The Low Return Environment
- March 30, 2015: Brokerage Specific Core Mutual Fund Portfolios 2
- March 23, 2015: Investment Arithmetic for Long Term Investments
- March 16, 2015: Brokerage Specific Core Mutual Fund Portfolios
- March 9, 2015: Newsletter Collection Update
- March 2, 2015: Total Return Bond ETFs
- February 23, 2015: Why Is Global Tactical Asset Allocation Not Popular?
- February 16, 2015: Where Are Permanent Portfolios Going?
- February 9, 2015: How Have Asset Allocation Funds Done?
- February 2, 2015: Risk Management Everywhere
- January 26, 2015: Composite Portfolios Review
- January 19, 2015: Fixed Income Investing Review
- January 12, 2015: How Does Trend Following Tactical Asset Allocation Strategy Deliver Returns
- January 5, 2015: When Forecast Fails
- December 22, 2014: Long Term Asset Returns: How Long Is Long?
- December 15, 2014: Beaten Down Assets
- December 8, 2014: Implementing Core Asset Portfolios In a Brokerage
- December 1, 2014: Two Key Issues of Investment Strategies
- November 24, 2014: Holiday Readings
- November 17, 2014: Retirement Spending Portfolios Update
- November 10, 2014: Fixed Income Or Cash
- November 3, 2014: Asset Trend Review
- October 27, 2014: Investment Loss, Mistakes And Market Cycles
- October 20, 2014: Strategic Portfolios With Managed Volatility
- October 13, 2014: Embrace Volatility
- October 6, 2014: Tips For 401k Open Enrollment
- September 29, 2014: What Can We Learn From Bill Gross’ Departure From PIMCO?
- September 22, 2014: Why Total Return Bond Funds?
- September 15, 2014: Equity And Total Return Bond Fund Composite Portfolios
- September 8, 2014: Momentum Based Portfolios Review
- September 1, 2014: Risk & Diversification: Mint.com Interview
- August 25, 2014: Remember Risk
- August 18, 2014: Consistency, The Most Important Edge In Investing: Tactical Case
- August 11, 2014: What To Do In Overvalued Stock Markets
- August 4, 2014: Is This The Peak Or Correction?
- July 28, 2014: Stock Musings
- July 21, 2014: Permanent Portfolios & Four Pillar Foundation Based Framework
- July 14, 2014: Composite Portfolios Review
- July 7, 2014: Portfolio Behavior During Market Corrections
- June 30, 2014: Half Year Brokerage ETF and Mutual Fund Portfolios Review
- June 23, 2014: Newsletter Collection Update
- June 16, 2014: There Are Always Lottery Winners
- June 9, 2014: The Arithmetic of Investment Mistakes
- June 2, 2014: Tips On Portfolio Rebalance
- May 26, 2014: In Praise Of Low Cost Core Asset Class Based Portfolios
- May 19, 2014: Consistency, The Most Important Edge In Investing: Strategic Case
- May 12, 2014: How To Handle An Elevated Overvalued Market
- May 5, 2014: Asset Allocation Funds Review
- April 28, 2014: Now The Economy Backs To The ‘Old Normal’, Should Our Investments Too?
- April 21, 2014: Total Return Bond Investing In The Current Market Environment
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