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Old 03-19-2012, 11:54 AM   #81
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I did not sell but did not buy until some months from the low.

Me too.

I'm amazed at how so many folks were able to know that the bottom was the bottom at the time it was happening. Like you, I hung tough and stuck to my plan, including no reductions in spending (I'm 6 years FIRE'd). But at the time (that in retrospect I now know was "the bottom,") I didn't recognize it immediately. During the first few percent of the recovery, I was still highly suspicious that the recovery would reverse and begin going back down. Only after several months had passed, did I begin any aggressive actions aimed at taking advantage of rising recovery prices.

For you folks that knew the bottom was the bottom at the actual time it was the bottom (there's a mouthful!), how did you do it? Your own data? Pundits? Sounds, or lack of sounds, coming from W2R?
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Old 03-19-2012, 12:07 PM   #82
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I wonder how many people did sell at, or near, the bottom? I'm thinking probably a lot.
Anectdotally I think many did. Back in March 2009 I was still working for my previous employer. I managed the fixed income and equities investments in the company's ESOP plan. It was a relatively new plan and only had ~$1 million invested at the time. Month after month leading up to March 2009 we would have meetings where we were showing losses - a few thousand here, tens of thousands there. Every month the firm principals wanted to sell everything "to stop the bleeding" as they said. I remember at our March 4 2009 meeting, that was it, they had seen enough. They said to sell everything and go to all cash. We argued for close to an hour and eventually I persuaded them to sell only 1/3 of the assets and keep the rest.

That was a couple days before the absolute bottom, and the recovery started painfully strong immediately thereafter. Since we had sold the most risky/volatile stuff that had gone down the most, it of course recovered the most (over 100% return from where we sold it within 2 years).

These dumb move cost our ESOP participants thousands of dollars each. The saddest thing was that the CEO also got spooked and went to all cash in March 2009. As the recovery was happening, he said his money manager was telling him it was a false recovery and that the double dip would happen any time. Dow 7000, 8000, 9000, it kept rising, and the CEO never got back in to the market. I'm not sure if he ever got back in fully, but he probably lost out on over a million in returns based on what I know of his portfolio value (we talked investing frequently). The guy never was really wealthy in spite of earning a ton of money and not spending much throughout a 50 year working career (still working). He fancied himself a trader but did very poorly from what I saw.
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Old 03-19-2012, 12:29 PM   #83
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How did the Great Recession impact my ER plans?

In hindsight I did well. I never sold anything and in fact switched up my allocations in November 2008 to get into some more risky volatile asset classes that were selling stupid cheap (vs a plane ole S&P 500 fund I was in). I moved a significant portion of my investments to international small cap, REITS, international REITs, emerging mkts, etc. These asset classes have done well since then (although in hindsight I think I missed the absolute bottom by a few months).

My long term plans for ER are going to be a bit more conservative. I will no longer rely solely on the 4% inflation adjusted withdrawal rule of thumb. I will probably end up taking out a portion of the portfolio each year based on what the portfolio is worth that year and live within the available funds. And it probably won't be 4%, but something lower. I also plan on having a "bucket" of fixed income investments or cash to keep me afloat during rough market conditions if the portfolio isn't doing well.

The Great Recession also gave me the knowledge that I could watch with nerves of steel as hundreds of thousands of dollars of my hard earned wealth dissipated quickly. Next time around I may not be working, but at least I know psychologically I can hold tight and things will eventually get better.
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Old 03-19-2012, 01:16 PM   #84
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The main effect was to totally change my approach to generating income during retirement. Before the crash, generating income was all very abstract: put a bunch of money in to index funds and bond funds, and then withdraw around 4% when it was time to retire. Re-balance yearly. But when I saw the value of all my holdings (including international and bonds) plummet, suddenly what had been abstract became very visceral. My stomach hurt. It was hard to sleep. I could not imagine having to live for decades with that kind of stress and uncertainty. As I read the crazy financial news of the times (AIG bailout, synthetic CDO's, etc) and saw a lack of accountability and oversight of financial markets, I further doubted my investment approach. By the end of 2009 markets had recovered some of their losses, and investment real estate was very low. I decided I would feel more comfortable depending on rental real estate to fund my retirement needs. I pulled about 25% of what I had invested in stocks, and used that to buy real estate. So far, I'm happy with my decision. I didn't get to fully participate in the recovery, which is a bummer, but I did buy some properties that are cash flowing well for me, and which I intend to keep for the long haul. The bottom line: I now have a clearer sense of what it FEELS like to experience volatility, know that I do not have the stomach for it (not for the funds that cover my basic living expenses), have reached FI, and plan to RE within the next couple years. Better to learn these lessons about yourself earlier rather than later, I guess...
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Old 03-19-2012, 01:24 PM   #85
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We doubled down. In late '08, added $100k into equities that we previously had in cash. Then, things went down more! So in March '09, we added another $100k to equities.

I remember telling DW... "well, if it's going to happen, I at least hope it stays down for awhile so we can buy a bunch at sale prices". Well, it's lasted a bit longer than I had hoped...but we've got way more in our accounts now than we did in mid '08. Part of that is due to contributions, and part of it due to growth on the money we've put in during the past 3 years at the lower prices.

I am dialing back the AA now though...took out 10% at year end, and another 10% earlier this month. May do another 10% in May/June....we'll see. Given the recent bull market, I can't see this continuing for the remainder of the year.
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Old 03-19-2012, 01:40 PM   #86
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The "Great Recession" might have pushed my retirement goal back a year, but all things considered, that's not too bad. Initially I wanted to retire in 2015, at the age of 45, but pushed it back a touch to 2016 and 46. But now, I can't remember when I made that decision. It might have actually pre-dated the 2008 meltdown, but I'm not sure. It could have just been a bit of premature "one more year" syndrome.

The big lesson that it taught me though, is that I'm not invincible. Seeing my portfolio drop by over half in the matter of months, even as I started throwing more money at it, was a real eye opener. But, it also reinforced the fact that it's always best to ride it out, and not panic and sell low.

By October of 2009, I was actually within 50 bucks of my October 2007 high, although that was helped because I kept on investing, and even ramped it up some when the prices were low. If I hadn't done that, I still might not be fully recovered, even now.

I'm also a bit better balanced now, with about 15% of my portfolio in money market funds. Back in 2007-2008, I had just about all of it invested fairly risky. As the market tumbled, I mainly tapped home equity to buy into those fire sale prices.

So now, if the market took another one of those big 50% hits, the money market portion would at least cushion me a little bit, and allow me to buy more on the lows, and I wouldn't have to depend on the HELOC again.
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Old 03-19-2012, 02:31 PM   #87
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When I look at my net worth chart, the Great Recession looks like a little blip. I only look at net worth quarterly and plot it on a chart. Because I was constantly adding new contributions throughout the Great Recession, I had a few quarters where net worth was down, but one year after the net worth started dropping, it had more than recovered and continued its upward trajectory unabated (excepting a shallow dip Sept 30 2011).
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Old 03-19-2012, 04:00 PM   #88
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It was horrible. In February 2009 I was forced to rebalance, AND I had to do tax loss harvesting. My personal investment plan required this. (OK, what I'm really saying is that having a written plan, drawn up outside of a potentially emotional, if not frightening crisis, is a really good idea.)
The good news is that I doubt I'll ever have to pay capital gains taxes, with that loss booked.
We never "had" to rebalance since everything dropped pretty much in lockstep, but we tax-loss-harvested twice.

Just finished using up those cap losses.

We also shifted our brokerage account permissions to enable us to sell naked puts as well as covered calls. Just one more reason that we used up those cap losses quicker than expected.
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Old 03-19-2012, 04:00 PM   #89
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Below is a chart that lines up the peaks of 3 really bad market declines (1) the October 1929 blue line start to depression, (2) the panic decline of August 1987 magenta line, and (3) the 2008 decline gold line which had peaked in 2007. This chart is inflation adjusted and includes dividends (important in the 1930's).

See the big red arrow? That was the low for the 2008 decline (shows as Feb 2009 since I'm plotting end of month results). But note the 1929 decline, the blue line. The temporary low that lines up with the 2008 bottom in about Jan 1930 had one looking smart for only a few months. Had you entered there you would have lost your shirt (or blouse).


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Old 03-19-2012, 04:01 PM   #90
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For you folks that knew the bottom was the bottom at the actual time it was the bottom (there's a mouthful!), how did you do it? Your own data? Pundits? Sounds, or lack of sounds, coming from W2R?
I didn't know it was the bottom. My portfolio kept getting so out of balance that I was forced to rebalance - until I couldn't rebalance anymore (I didn't want to go below a certain threshold in cash + bonds). That just happened to be around the same time as the Oct/Nov 2008 bottom. Market recovered just a bit, and then the Feb 2009 bottom returned to about the same level, which meant I was still balanced as best as I could be.

The good news was that things recovered very quickly after that, and I was able to rebalance the other way in August of 2009, and then again in Jan 2011.

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Old 03-19-2012, 07:22 PM   #91
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Thanks to the following posters who reminded us of how panicky the situation felt back then. As they say, if everyone is running around scared, and you are not, perhaps you may be the idiot that does not know what is coming.

Yeah, tsunami! What tsunami?

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The main effect was to totally change my approach to generating income during retirement. Before the crash, generating income was all very abstract: put a bunch of money in to index funds and bond funds, and then withdraw around 4% when it was time to retire. Re-balance yearly. But when I saw the value of all my holdings (including international and bonds) plummet, suddenly what had been abstract became very visceral. My stomach hurt. It was hard to sleep. I could not imagine having to live for decades with that kind of stress and uncertainty. As I read the crazy financial news of the times (AIG bailout, synthetic CDO's, etc) and saw a lack of accountability and oversight of financial markets, I further doubted my investment approach...

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I did not sell but did not buy until some months from the low. People who sold were, of course, matched by people who bought. Prices weakened because people who sold were highly motivated to do so, I guess.

Anyway, I'm sure some are kicking themselves for selling at lows. But they were just acting rationally -- rationally in most other forms of human activity. Normal human emotions do not mix well with investing. So you have to be realistic about your AA and planning up front. But few had experienced such a massively bad market as we saw in 2008 ... a learning experience for sure.
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Me too.
So, of course I was scared too. However, unlike many people here who were not involved in tech stock melt-down in 2000-2003, I lost 44%, counting from March 2000 to Oct 2002, though I did not own a single dot-com.

I recovered when I finally realized that it was pointless to wait for tech stocks like Cisco, Applied Material, etc.., to come back. Remember Nortel, or smaller semiconductor guys like Conexant? They NEVER came back!

I sold, took the loss and went into other sectors such as material, mining, agriculture, etc... I recovered to my 2000 high in Oct 2004. In 2006, I bought my 2nd home, and kept getting higher. Life was good until the housing bubble burst.

This time, learning from not bottom fishing for the previously high-flying sector that now crashed and burnt, I did not bother to watch financial stocks to buy, but rather the other "innocent" stocks that also got hammered. There were plenty of other much safer stocks to buy. I told of Caterpillar earlier. These were the ones I watched.

Did not care to watch the funds like Dodge & Cox Balanced that I had. Not even now. I only had a few percent in those, and they did not drop nearly as much as some individual stocks. Those were the babies that got thrown out with the bath water. Did I mention Caterpillar? Sold that too soon, doggone it, but still have Cummins. Heh heh heh...


Quote:
I'm amazed at how so many folks were able to know that the bottom was the bottom at the time it was happening. Like you, I hung tough and stuck to my plan, including no reductions in spending (I'm 6 years FIRE'd). But at the time (that in retrospect I now know was "the bottom,") I didn't recognize it immediately. During the first few percent of the recovery, I was still highly suspicious that the recovery would reverse and begin going back down. Only after several months had passed, did I begin any aggressive actions aimed at taking advantage of rising recovery prices.

For you folks that knew the bottom was the bottom at the actual time it was the bottom (there's a mouthful!), how did you do it? Your own data? Pundits? Sounds, or lack of sounds, coming from W2R?
I certainly did not. Hence, my record shows I plowed $400K into the market, from Nov 2008 to Feb 2009. The market was of course still dropping, and my total went down another $127K in that time, on top of mucho money lost already.

So, I cried "Uncle" and told myself that the remaining cash had to be what I would keep to live on for the rest of my miserable life. My part-time work also was drying up around that time, and I did not bring in enough to live on, like I did in earlier years. That part-time income did help me take some more risks than I would otherwise though.

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...See the big red arrow? That was the low for the 2008 decline (shows as Feb 2009 since I'm plotting end of month results). But note the 1929 decline, the blue line. The temporary low that lines up with the 2008 bottom in about Jan 1930 had one looking smart for only a few months. Had you entered there you would have lost your shirt (or blouse).




It would be a bit less painful to lose my shirt if young female investors would also end up topless.

Yes, it was exactly the talk of "double dip" that made me took some money back out of the market for a little bit of gain, part of the $400K that I put in just prior to the bottom. Still kicking myself for not letting it in there a bit longer.

Compared to the tech bubble, top to bottom of the dips, I was down 37% instead of 44% in the 2000-2003 dip. A bit of improvement, perhaps, but this time as I had more, the absolute dollar amount was a lot more. Yes, it was a LOT of money, compared to what my income is now, and I do make good money.

Anyway, I still now have more than in Oct 07, before the crash, although I have had a net outflow. And I am very thankful.
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Old 03-19-2012, 07:58 PM   #92
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I was scared too. However, unlike many people here who were not involved in tech stock melt-down in 2000-2003, I lost 44%, counting from March 2000 to Oct 2002, though I did not own a single dot-com.

.
The thing that amazes me is I went through the dot com melt down as a new widow and it did not faze me and I did have some tech stocks . The 2008-2009 meltdown was worse because I had just retired and unless I returned to work that money had to last me for the rest of my life . Next time I hope I can just ignore the whole thing and enjoy my life .
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Old 03-20-2012, 05:33 AM   #93
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It certainly was a scary time. Several months ago I went back and reviewed all of the stock threads I posted in during this time. As Brewer said obviously a lot of people were selling, but the active posters on this board didn't seem to be in that group.

The majority of the posters (especially the mutual fund investors) were in grim but determined mood, including W2R. "I'm going to stick to my Asset Allocation, but damn it I want to sell, but I know it will be a mistake". A minority was saying sell sell .

A fair number of us (especially the active stock picker) were urging people to buy in late 2008. I wrote a several paragraph post about why Apple was screaming bargain in the 80s. Sadly I didn't have any money at the time, so I all I could do was a write a long date put option on the stock (and got paid handsomely). But anyone who followed my advice would have got a nice boost for their retirement .

I ran out of money by Jan 2009 to buy stock and realized I had wrote some many put options that I was in trouble if the market continued down. My key learning from the crisis was to lock some money away in CDs (Thank you to the board for telling me about all the great PenFed CDs).

In the spring of 2009 there didn't seem to be much activity on the board regarding the market and I think by and large the low past pretty much unnoticed until the big jump in March.
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Old 03-20-2012, 06:02 AM   #94
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Reading all the "me too" comments on being scared I will add my ditto. I never sold a thing but I didn't buy anything either. To a degree that may have been because I was pretty high in equities to start (around 70%) but I certainly didn't call the bottom. I can remember thinking we may be at a low around Dow 8000 and later concluding I had no idea how far it would go at around 6000. Still never tempted to sell. The one flirtation I made with timing was last August when the dip occurred. I exchanged about $200K in a VG bond fund for the VG total market and exchanged it back (to return to my current AA when the market recovered to the pre-August level. But I recognize that could easily have gone the other way. I would not risk a large portion of my portfolio on such actions but would consider slowly shifting my AA more towards bonds as the PE10 gets way out of whack and vice versa.

Now if someone could find the thread that addressed when to make such a shift...
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Old 03-20-2012, 06:59 AM   #95
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....
Now if someone could find the thread that addressed when to make such a shift...
That thread exists right here: LOL!'s Market Timing Newsletter
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Old 03-20-2012, 07:55 AM   #96
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The great recession has been pretty good to us, too. We're still a few years away from retirement, but made the decision to "stay the course" as things were dropping -- we continued to DCA into our retirement and kids college investments, and also plopped some large chunks of extra cash into the kids college funds in fall 2008 and fall 2009. Both proved to be smart choices. Like W2R, I track net worth daily -- something I started when we were near a personal peak in May 2008 -- and that has actually been quite integral to our being able to maintain a steady head during the ups and downs of the past few years. We hit our low on March 9, 2009, which coincidentally was right around the time we were buying our apartment here in beijing. That has turned out to be a great investment and a key pillar in our growing net worth, as we managed to buy at the absolute bottom of the post-crisis dip and the apartment has more than doubled in value since. We have our mortgage in US$, so as the value of the $ drops in relation to the RMB we aren't affected too badly (actually it works in our favor, as our equity increases in US$ terms with each drop in the US$). There is concern about a bubble here, but our apartment will probably never go down in value below what we paid for it due to location, size, layout, and other factors that are hard and increasingly harder to replicate. A subway line will open up within 10 minutes walk in 2014, and that will pretty much seal the high value indefinitely.

I actually got a lot of encouragement for our decision to stay in the markets from participants here, and am very grateful for this forum and the positive effect it has had on our financial situation.
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Old 03-20-2012, 09:32 AM   #97
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Below is a chart that lines up the peaks of 3 really bad market declines (1) the October 1929 blue line start to depression, (2) the panic decline of August 1987 magenta line, and (3) the 2008 decline gold line which had peaked in 2007. This chart is inflation adjusted and includes dividends (important in the 1930's).

See the big red arrow? That was the low for the 2008 decline (shows as Feb 2009 since I'm plotting end of month results). But note the 1929 decline, the blue line. The temporary low that lines up with the 2008 bottom in about Jan 1930 had one looking smart for only a few months. Had you entered there you would have lost your shirt (or blouse).


Fascinating chart. I especially like that it is adjusted for divs and inflation, that often gets overlooked. But in charts like that, I always question the value of syncing them at one point for the comparison. For example, it the run up to that 1929 peak was very short and sharp, for someone accumulating over the previous two or three decades, even if they retired at the peak, would not be looking as bad as that chart makes it appear, would they?

Trying to adjust for value would be problematic, but it sure would be interesting to see each of those lines with a lead-in for someone who was dollar-cost averaging in for 25 years prior to the peak. That is different from winning the lottery or gaining an inheritance and dumping it all in at one swoop at the peak (which is what I think charts like this show us). I'm guessing they would not look so scary, but I don't really know,

-ERD50
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Old 03-20-2012, 09:45 AM   #98
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I put on my blinders. The blinders being Indexing, AA, DCA, rebalancing.

1. When the market goes up I go telling myself. Great..total balance goes up.

2. (not as easy psychologically as #1), When the market goes down, I tell myself. I'm buying more shares with each DCA, rebalancing.

I pay attention to the headlines (who can ignore them?), but don't let it have influence of what I do since I can't control world events. I can only control my blinders.
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Old 03-20-2012, 10:28 AM   #99
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I put on my blinders. The blinders being Indexing, AA, DCA, rebalancing.
What a great statement! I like it and will use it in the future if you give me permission.
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Old 03-20-2012, 10:46 AM   #100
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I am the opposite. I like to keep my eyes wide open so that I can spot bargains and bubbles when those happen.

Easier said than done, except in hindsight lots of time, but hey, a guy's got to try, you know?
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