FOURTH QUARTER, 2018

The final three months of 2018 experienced volatile financial markets, political turbulence and fear among investors, especially those within ten years of retirement.  But as rocky as the final quarter was, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index only dropped 6.2% for the full year.  The Dow Jones Industrial was down 5.5% in 2018.* Not positive, but not bad enough for an H.G. Wells-style novel about our world’s end.  For those of us who have slogged through at least two bear markets, 2018 wasn’t even a baby bear.  I think it was more like a playground for those nefarious computer programmers who set their machines to sell when many are selling and to buy when many are buying.  Think of this type of market as a stock car race.  Each driver is trying to beat all the other drivers, while the patient investors sit safely in the stands, high above the fray.  When the race is over, the spectators can come down from their observation perches to resume a more rational pace of buying, holding and selling.  We can expect a down market every few years, maybe twice in a decade.  We expect that they will arrive, but nobody has been able to figure out, with any consistency, when the winds will blow.  One of my favorite sayings is: “Stocks can go down but they have never stayed down.”

Now, what might make a market, any market – securities, real estate, precious gems, etc. go up or go down?  Well, let’s start with the simple Law of Supply and Demand.  When something is desired but is in short supply its price increases.  When something is desired but is very plentiful, its price decreases.  This simple law is in effect every minute of every day all over the world.  It’s what makes commerce work.

“We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.” —George Washington (1786)

INVESTING IN YOUR BELIEFS

Is your investment strategy as socially and environmentally responsible as you are?

It’s not uncommon – Many a well-educated, socially conscious, environmentally friendly investor winds up buying shares of companies whose beliefs and business practices are far removed from their own.  Why? Often investors simply haven’t thought about merging their personal beliefs with their investment strategies.  Some may not even be aware of where and how their money is invested.

Is it that big a deal? – Only you can answer that.  What matters to you may not matter to the next guy, and vice versa.  But consider this – when you invest in a company you own part of that company.  What you need to consider, based on what the company does and how they conduct business, is whether you would feel comfortable being a partial owner of that company.

Voting with your wallet – How we invest or don’t invest our money can be a significant statement of our beliefs and personal principles.  For example, if someone is strongly opposed to gambling or pornography, they could choose not to invest in any company that contributes to those industries.  If everyone who opposed those industries sold (or didn’t purchase) shares from those companies, that could potentially send a powerful message.  On the flip side, if someone firmly believes in eco-friendly alternative energy sources, they could choose to invest in wind farms rather than big oil (for example) as a way to show their support.

The trade-off – Investing according to your beliefs and convictions can definitely affect your rate of return.  Whether the effect is positive or negative depends upon the investments you choose and the performance of those investments.  But it is entirely possible, and perhaps probable, that at some point you could face a situation where you feel the best return on your investment would come from a company that is absolutely contrary to what you believe.  In that case, what do you do?  No one but YOU can answer that question.  You must decide for yourself which is more important – your convictions or your potential financial return.

We at Brimmer Financial believe that in many cases our clients will be well served by selecting professional asset managers whose first responsibility is to seek strong portfolio returns and who offer socially and environmentally responsible securities.  We have studied the offerings of the best-known managers and have selected a group that, in our opinion, are suitable for many if not most of our clients. 

*SOURCES: S&P 500; Dow Jones Industrial Average

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