Down markets are bad, but recovery is worse. It is hard to grasp the fact that a 50% drop in value requires a 100% market improvement for complete recovery. Look at the red curve reflecting performance of an all-stocks portfolio that lost 59% of its value in the 2008-2009 Great Recession; it had to improve by 144% for full recovery and a year later only reached the 90% mark. For contrast, look at the orange curve for a half stocks/half bonds and cash portfolio: within a year it had recovered to values 5% beyond its 2007 peak. Portfolio assets are identical from curve to curve, but equities and fixed-income allocations vary. On the illustration, fixed-income assets (bonds and cash) increase from 0% to 100% from the top down; portfolio curves flatten as fixed- income allocations increase and performance volatility decreases. Conversely, allocations for equities (stocks) increase from the bottom up. The red curve (all-equities) portfolio recovered fully in about 5 years, but the orange curve (50% equities/50% fixed income) portfolio recovered within a year… and the lower blue curve (all fixed-income) portfolio did not lose value at the 2009 market bottom. Which curve would you choose for your portfolio?
The real mountains represent surplus in the private sector of an economy. The reflected mountains represent government deficit. If the private sector holds a surplus of cash reserves in excess of costs, the government shows an equal amount of deficit because it guarantees the value of the private sector surplus. If private sector surplus disappears, so does government deficit…and the economy enters a recession. Conversely, government deficit reflects private sector wealth. As government deficit shrinks, full faith and credit of the government covers a shrinking amount of currency it can make available to the private sector. The notch between the two major slopes in the photo, and its reflection, represent a recession: no surplus, no deficit… and no normal flows of currency to pay the bills and grow production. If the government prints more money, its guarantees rely upon the private sector to expand and increase surplus. The photo illustrates an economic theory that says “Private sector surplus and government deficits: you can’t have one without the other in a growing economy.” Yin and Yang, heaven and earth, positive and negative… pairs of opposing forces that energize life and can move mountains for those who understand.
Registered Investment Advisors now have to perform as fiduciary professionals, which puts a new strain upon just what constitutes a “fiduciary.” There is no clear guidance other than to put our clients’ interests before our own. The Boy Scout oath and law include the words “mentally awake, morally straight, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, thrifty, brave, and reverent…” among others. Then there’s the biblical injunction to “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” There is still some wiggle room within these words, so let’s look at “arrogate,” which is the verb upon which “arrogant” is based (from the Latin rogo, rogare which means to ask… like, “interrogate”). The definition of arrogate goes beyond mere ‘asking,’ towards “To appropriate for oneself presumptuously; claim, take, or assume without right.” That could make “fiduciary” clearer if we state that a fiduciary does not arrogate. True, it doesn’t roll off the tongue, but there is more heft in that statement than in our other descriptions of what a fiduciary should and should not do. And it applies to behavior we expect from advisors and politicians alike, don’t you think?