Last 4 months (March to June) has tested the nerves and intellect of investors. It has made experienced investors look stupid, and rookie investors look genius. During the 4 months, almost all records were broken by the markets. Fastest ever fall, fastest ever recovery, worst quarter of 20 years, followed by best quarter of 20 years, etc, etc.
It was an everyday pain to look at the markets falling like the world is going to end due to Corona Virus. But in the next 3 months, the markets rose very sharply. The rise surprised everyone and makes one feel that COVID is nothing but sham.
In the month of March, investors were complaining that FDs and Debt funds are the best choice. Equities are way too risky. Next month, due to debt funds panic, the mood changed to Fixed Deposits and liquid funds. In May & June, sentiments shift back to equity markets. Now Fixed deposits are a bad word since the interest rates have come down. I have never noticed mood swings of investors so fast.
Mood swings are OK unless they force you into decisions which will be repented later. In the month of March, some very experienced investors got into panic and withdrew their portfolios at the bottom of the market. Now that the markets have run up so fast, their action under panic has caused them big losses which will be difficult to compensate in a long-long time. This self-hammering of their portfolio will bite them forever. Sadly, every market crash has casualties like these, and yet people don’t learn from such mistakes. These investors are generally excellent in their professional domains, but become victim to their emotional biases while making investment decisions.
That’s why it is extremely important to have time tested framework for portfolio management. It calls for Asset Allocation models that helps in mitigating risks and seizing opportunity in the crises. Every investor should adopt a model that focuses on capital preservation when the markets are expensive. When the markets are undervalued, the model should focus on capital appreciation. These models are called by different names. “Dynamic Allocation”, “All Weather Strategies” or “3 Bucket strategies”. These models may vary in structure and suitability, but they all are aimed at bringing discipline in investing. Before Covid, all these strategies were underweight on equity holdings. With sharp corrections in March, they all went overweight on equity holdings. Thus they protected the portfolio when the markets were falling, and participated in the recovery rally. Automatic rebalancing based on pre-defined rules gives peace of mind. Its simple and effective !
Lastly, the asset allocation shouldn’t just be restricted to Debt & Equity. Gold has been an important asset for all Indians. During downturns, Gold moves in opposite direction to equity holdings. Although GOLD has been shamed often by the likes of Warren Buffet, the fact that USD and INR have lost 97% and 99% of their value to Gold since 1972 is a point worth considering . In a world where the central banks are printing money like crazy, and keeping the interest rates near Zero, there is ample opportunity for Gold to grow in future.