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Instead, embrace uncertainty.
Accept that you need to invest without knowing what will happen to your money over the short term. So be sure, first, to put aside enough money in a safe place, like a bank account or money-market fund, to pay the bills in the months ahead.
But because the stock market tends to rise over long periods, and because bonds are now generating reasonable income (as I explained last week), it’s wise to invest for a horizon of 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 heading over the short term, because nobody knows. Making bets on the basis of these forecasts is gambling, not investing.
Consider how bad Wall Street forecasts have been.
In 2020, I noted that the median Wall Street forecast since 2000 had missed its target by an average 12.9 percentage points a year. That error over two decades was astonishing: more than double the actual average annual performance of the stock market!
Imagine a weather forecast as bad as that. A meteorologist says the high temperature the next day will be 25 degrees Fahrenheit and it will snow, so you dress for a winter storm. Actually, the temperature turns out to be 60 degrees and the skies are clear. That’s about the level of accuracy for Wall Street strategists through 2020.
They continued their errant ways the next year, issuing a median forecast of 3,800 for the closing level of the S&P 500 in 2021. But the index ended the year at 4,766.18, an error of about 25 percent. In a word, the forecast was horrible.
The forecasts for 2022 look inaccurate, as usual, though we won’t know for sure until the end of this month. A year ago, the Wall Street consensus was that the S&P 500 would reach 4,825 at the end of 2022, a modest increase from 2021. But at the moment, the index is hovering around 4,000. In other words, a year ago, strategists were saying that 2022 would be just fine for stocks. It hasn’t been.