Save Money by Doing Nothing. Literally.

John Bogle wrote something interesting in The Little Book of Common Sense Investing:

“The way to wealth for those in the business is to persuade their clients, “Don’t just stand there. Do something.” But the way to wealth for their clients in the aggregate is to follow the opposite maxim: “Don’t do something. Just stand there.”

I thought it would be interesting to see the impact that market timing (in a very unscientific way) might have on a person’s theoretical return during the prior decade. To do this, I looked at the returns from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and then pulled out the top five daily returns.

If you invested $100 on the 27th of August 1999, ten years later (August 28, 2009) it would be worth $86.06.

What if you had been out of the market for the five highest-returning days of the prior decade? Your $100 would be worth $57.55. What’s also interesting is the fact that the five highest-return days were from October 13, 2008 to March 23, 2009 — a period of just five months!

Take the easier, less stressful, intelligent, rational road when it comes to your investing. Buy and hold. Just invest and do nothing.

2 Responses to “Save Money by Doing Nothing. Literally.”

  1. LJam

    Hi Jesse,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from YNAB over the last two years. It changed the way I thought about finances for my whole family. Thank you for a great product.

    In an effort to pay you back for all the advice and training, please read the following.

    As of tomorrow, I will be completely out of the stock market. In another month or two, I will also be out of the bond market. I am putting all my money in treasuries and t-bills. I believe the stock, bond, and real estate market are going to hit a deflationary depression. I believe the DJIA will fall around 7500 points by the time this downward wave ends next year.

    I know you are a buy and hold guy. But please consider going ultraconservative for the next 2 months. If I am wrong, you will know by November. You will not have lost much, but some time and effort. If I am right, you will save a lot of your hard earned money.

    Good luck and thanks.

  2. Jen

    My two cents: I began investing on my own this time last year- to try to make up for some of the huge losses in my mutual funds/retirement portfolio (I was advised to “stay put” by my broker.) I thought that if I don’t take action, the losses in my portfolio would amount to one step forward and two steps back– we lost 50% of the value we had invested and/or gained over the last ten years.

    So, in my attempt to take “a step forward” I took my income tax refund (we are always late filers) and opened a Schwab account. I have since gained about 50% on my money overall on about 20 different stocks in small amounts (if I were to sell it all today.) Spreading the risk over small purchases helps. One of my stocks is up 821.57% since I bought it– a national company that has been around a long time. I bought about $50 worth of it, and paid a $12.95 fee. I now have $502.80 in unrealized gain as of today on the one stock alone. Granted, half a dozen of the stocks I picked have dipped backward a bit, but the vast majority of them are up! I am no expert, but my guess is that there are still big bargains out there–as the economy recovers, I predict we will see big leaps in raw materials (aluminum– cash for clunkers aftermath?) and in the tech sector (aging computers will have to be replaced– just replaced a 3 year old notebook myself.) There are lots of cheap stocks in big companies out there that also pay dividends- think drug companies and utilities– better than most savings accounts.

    Lastly, one has to consider that the stock market is the way the rich get richer. Imagine the dude who bought 10,000 shares of the same stock I bought 50 shares of– he’s quite happy right now! Timing the market is risky, but considering that we are at a point in history where things are decidedly down, it seems to me that rolling the dice and getting in the stock market might be worth the risk. You just have to have the stomach for it.

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