The Markets Let’s hear it for 2019! Major stock indices in the United States and overseas are poised to deliver double-digit gains for the year. Even with uncertainty about Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), the FTSE 100 boasted a gain of more than 10 percent at the end of last week. That’s not bad for a year which included (in the United States) an inverted yield curve, an earnings recession, and a contentious trade war. The strong stock market performance of 2019 owes a lot to central banks, and so does the performance of the bond market. Reuters reported: “…the screeching change of direction by the world’s top central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, which cut U.S. interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis more than a decade earlier…fired bond markets up like a rocket. U.S. Treasuries, the world’s benchmark government IOU, have made a whopping 9.4 percent after yields plunged as much as 120 basis points…German Bunds – Europe’s safest asset – have had their best year in five years, making roughly 5.5% in euro terms as the European Central Bank has reversed course too.” So, what lessons should we take from 2019? Perhaps, we should try to come to terms with loss aversion. When you make an investment decision, it’s important to consider the impact of loss aversion on your thinking. The pain from a loss carries twice the impact of the pleasure from a gain. As a result, fear of loss may affect investment decision making. 2019 offered a great example. During a year of exceptional returns, investors pulled money out of stocks at a record pace because they were worried about recession and other issues. Axios reported: “Data from the Investment Company Institute shows money has been pulled out of [stock investments] in every month this year except January. In total, more than $130 billion has been drawn from [stock investments] in 2019, making it already the largest year of outflows on record.” When it comes to investing, uncertainty is normal. It is part of investing. Tolerating uncertainty may help investors earn attractive returns. As a result, our advice is to stay invested even when uncertainty makes you nervous, even when markets are falling. If you have a diversified portfolio built to help you reach your goals, stay with it, unless your risk tolerance has changed. In 2019, pulling money out of stocks meant some investors missed out on some exceptional returns.
Mastering MeditationToday might just be the prefect time for you to try meditation, if you don’t already practice this ancient technique that’s known to reduce stress, combat disease, boost creativity, and fight depression. These significant benefits, and others, make meditation worth the time and effort. Mastering meditation requires you to focus 100 percent of your attention for an extended period of time. Anyone who has tried to focus all of their attention on anything for more than a few minutes knows how challenging it can be, especially these days when distractions abound. Meditation has spiritual and scientific aspects Meditation has played an important role in culture and religion since ancient times, and although approaches to meditation vary from culture to culture, people around the world believe it is an essential cornerstone of spiritual development. Meditation can also play an important role in mental and emotional health. Scientists studying neuroplasticity – the adult brain’s ability to change its structure or function in an enduring way – have found mindful meditation, which requires the objective, non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings, helps improve emotional resilience by strengthening the left prefrontal cortex. Recent studies released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine have found meditation may be as effective as antidepressants in reducing anxiety, depression, and pain. Practicing meditation Mindful meditation involves finding a comfortable position and then quietly observing your breath and letting go of any thoughts that drift into your mind. If you want to try it, and need a little guidance, there are plenty of online instructional videos to get you started. Here are a few tips that may help:
- Practice in a quiet space at the same time each day
- Use counting to focus your efforts (count your breaths up to five silently and then start over again) or focus on your intent (to find balance, calm, etc.)
- Be aware when your mind wanders, accept it, let it go, and refocus