Bear Market on The Horizon: How Does a Financial Advisor Prepare?

young woman looking into the sunset

July 2018.

By Jeff Headrick, Financial Planner

It is the middle of Summer. The days are long, the weather is hot, and if your business is like most, things are probably a little slow around the office. Sound about right?

As the owner of an independent financial planning firm, I know all too well how some of these slow business cycles can wreak havoc on a business. I have just learned over the years that it’s a little like surfing. Big waves equal big days, and when it’s flat and calm— you just have to find something better to do.

What Does an Advisor Do?

Summer is a good time for me to catch up on continuing education. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate my business goals since we are at the midway point of the year. There are so many metrics in this business it’s fascinating.

Every exchange traded fund, mutual fund, or index that we measure has multiple metrics. And as a business owner, I have additional metrics such as new client acquisition, new assets under management, and a plethora of other statistics. And while summer is also a good time to just take off and have some fun, anybody that’s been in business for a while will tell you: what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.

Today I’m writing this article in the morning, returning a few calls here and there, and prepping for a noon conference call where I will meet with some of my teammates to discuss the outlook for the stock market. I love the end of a quarter because it’s when companies like Vanguard, Putnam, and others come out with their newest data on what our clients holdings are doing.

A Day in the Life

At my noon meeting today, I will not be the smartest guy on the call--- not by a longshot.  There will be others with more industry experience, some with their CFA® (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation, and possibly one or two with a PhD in economics. Like GE’s former CEO Jack Welch, I like to be surrounded by people who are smarter than myself—in this case— way smarter.

This think tank discussion will have all sorts of wonderful stats and colorful graphs. But my job as a financial professional is to cut through all the opinions provided, and to find one or two big takeaways from this meeting that I can then forward to my client’s benefit.

Are we looking at a lot of future growth over the next 12 months? Are President Trump’s new economic policies going to hurt or help our economy? I look forward to sharing these answers with my clients over the ensuing weeks.

Bear Market Horizon?

You don’t hear a lot of buzz currently about a possible bear market. Everything is still very optimistic. For example, you don’t hear a lot of talk about looming bear markets, but rather things like: “When will the bull market end?” See how the spin keeps it positive?

In 2008 I held many of my client’s assets in a discretionary capacity. This means that I had a lot of responsibility with my client’s assets, and to be honest, up until 2008, I had never had to manage client assets through such a rough climate. Ah, the good ole days!

As you can imagine, 2008 in 2009 changed and challenged me in a lot of ways—as it did every other advisor on the planet. I will tell you that it’s made me a little more cautious, and a little more vigilant.

There is definitely a bear market on the horizon for US stocks. We just don’t know how far out the horizon is. In my next blog post I’ll provide more rationale as to why I think we have reached, or are nearing our peak.

I do want to include a link to a bear market discussion six months ago that I think you might appreciate. Here, Peter Eliades notes that previous bear markets were precluded by positive, not negative, fundamentals. Isn’t that fascinating?

Also, I want to throw in a more recent link recorded this month where David Stockman shares why he thinks a bear market is just around the corner.

Thanks for reading and look for our follow up piece to this article in two weeks.

If you have a financial concern you’d like to speak to Jeff about, click here to schedule a brief conference call.