Instead, embrace uncertainty.
Accept that you need to invest without knowing what will happen to your money in the short term. So make sure, first, that you set aside enough money in a safe place, like a bank account or money market fund, to pay your bills in the coming months.
But because the stock market tends to rise over long periods, and because bonds now generate reasonable income (as I explained last week), it’s wise to invest over a decade or more in low-cost index funds that track the entire stock and bond markets.
Don’t base your investments on specific predictions of where the stock market is headed in the short term, because no one knows. Betting on the basis of these forecasts is gambling, not investing.
Consider how bad Wall Street forecasts have been.
By 2020, I noted that the average Wall Street forecast since 2000 had missed its target by an average of 12.9 percentage points per year. That error over two decades was staggering: more than twice the real average annual return of the stock market!
Imagine a weather forecast as bad as this. A weatherman says the high temperature the next day will be 25 degrees Fahrenheit and it will snow, so you dress for a winter storm. In fact, the temperature is 60 degrees and the sky is clear. This is the level of accuracy of Wall Street strategists through 2020.
They continued their erratic ways the following year, issuing an average forecast of 3,800 for the S&P 500’s closing level in 2021. But the index ended the year at 4,766.18, an error of about 25 percent one hundred. In a word, the forecast was awful.
Forecasts for 2022 seem inaccurate, as usual, although we won’t know for sure until later this month. A year ago, the consensus on Wall Street was that the S&P 500 would reach 4,825 by the end of 2022, a modest increase from 2021. But for now, the index is hovering around 4,000. In other words, a year ago, strategists were saying 2022 would be good for stocks. It hasn’t been