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Clearly, Not Everyone Is Getting Rich Off The Stock Market

Well, the NY Fed was out today with its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for Q4 2017. Clearly, Americans are in a lot of debt. Take a look.

Just a couple of quick hits from the report. Total U.S. household debt rose $193 billion in the 4th quarter, to a new all-time peak of $13.15 trillion. That's 17.9% above the most recent trough in Q2 2013. Broken down by segment, what do you suppose was the largest gain in percentage terms? Credit cards, with a 3.2% increase. In the picture above, the widening gap represented by the red arrows reflects the fact that non-housing debt is rising at a faster pace than housing debt.

Here's what's troubling about that. Below is a picture of the stock market, as represented by the S&P 500 index, over that same period; from the most recent credit trough in Q2 2013 to the end of 2017.

And thus, the title of this article. Over that period, the S&P 500 index rose by 75%; from roughly 1,600 to 2,800. Apparently, however, the r…

Last Week Was Rough - But Here's Some Perspective in Four Pictures

Last week was a rough week for the stock market. After declines beginning Tuesday of the previous week, on Monday 8/24/15 the Dow Jones average took a frightening nosedive at the open, initially falling over 1,000 points before closing down a "mere" 588.40 points.

Of course, this generated lots of headlines. The markets continued to rise and fall in wild, breathtaking motion through Wednesday of the week before mounting a sustained 2-day rally by Friday's close.

Using the broader S&P 500 Index as a gauge, here's a visual look at the week, extending slightly back into the previous week to make the decline appear even more dramatic (please note that you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge):

Now, that red line looks pretty horrible, doesn't it? This, of course, led to lots of panicked calls to financial advisors from clients fretting about the state of their portfolios, as well as newscasters conducting breathless on-air interviews on the evening news.

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words." To help calm your nerves, instead of writing 3,000 words, perhaps I can share 3 simple pictures. In each picture, the "good" outcome will be featured with a green line, the "bad, world is ending" outcome with a red line.

First, here's how the last year looked:

The green line looks pretty good, the red line not so good. And it's true. With the losses of the past week, the S&P 500 is pretty much flat over the past year. Of course, if you were invested in a solid ETF such as SPY, you would have received dividends over that span and as a result would be slightly in the green, so to speak, overall.

Next, though, let's take a slightly longer perspective. This one is 3 years:

Ah, that looks a little better. The red line is not quite as sweet as the green, but both look pretty decent. Finally, let's take it out to 5 years, and it looks even better:

Here's the deal. The U.S. market has been up pretty sharply over the last 3 years, and even more over the last 5 years. There is a major school of thought that says the market has been up a little too sharply, buoyed by near-zero interest rates.

Essentially, the gap between the green and the red lines is just a little bit of air, a little bit of excess, being let out of the market. Still, with both the 3-year and 5-year charts, even the red line looks pretty good, wouldn't you agree?

My point? If you, like me, have a balanced portfolio, a long-term perspective, and a little cash, short-term havoc such as happened last can offer a wonderful opportunity to add to your portfolio.

Now, the line for the next five years may not look quite as good as for the last five. There are challenges ahead, including a slowing global economy. At the same time, if we revisit this topic 5 years from now, there is a very high probability the line will also be moving in an upwards direction.

I hope these pictures have been helpful in keeping an eye on, pardon the pun, the big picture. Be smart, diversify in low-cost ETFs, and I hope both of us have a big smile on our face five years from now.

Happy investing!

Disclosure: I am not a registered investment advisor or broker/dealer. Readers are cautioned that the material contained herein should be used solely for informational purposes, and are encouraged to consult with their financial and/or tax advisor respecting the applicability of this information to their personal circumstances. Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. Readers are solely responsible for their own investment decisions.


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