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The Stock Market Roller Coaster

November 19, 2010 · 161 comments

in Personal Finance

Did you like the way stock prices rose on Thursday?  Did it make you rush to check your portfolio balances and do a song and dance?  Did you feel unusually optimistic because your net worth increased on paper?

Well, lets take a little look at our stock market.  Thursday, the market soared because Ireland may get a bailout from the European Union.  (From Marketwatch:   Speculation that Ireland would accept a bailout lifted sentiment around the globe on Thursday.) In addition, people were feeling the love for General Motors, as GM’s stock price climbed above $34.00 a share, and there was also good news from the manufacturing sector.   The market apparently liked what it learned as the market responded so positively.

But what about Tuesday, where the market tanked 2 percent because the market feared more European bailouts, and also had concerns about inflation in China?  (From Reuters:  U.S. stocks fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday as the prospect of more European bailouts and worries China will rein in inflation prompted investors to abandon risky assets.)


So Tuesday, the market was afraid of European bailouts.  On Thursday, the market was celebrating the possible rescue/bailout of Ireland?

The market opened at 11,194 on Tuesday and closed at 11,181 on Thursday.  That is an awful lot of news to digest for very little change in the market.  What is bad news one day may be good news the next.  It is too difficult for even experts to predict and understand, let alone the general layperson.   (How many times have you seen a company report record results, only to see their stock price get slammed because they only ‘met’ expectations.  Love when that happens.)

The unpredictable and somewhat irrational behavior of the market is one reason why I have stopped monitoring the stock market during the day.  A rumor here, a machine trading error there, and all the sudden, the market has lost it’s mind.  In the end, the market will land where it lands, and being stressed watching it fall or celebrating when it rises doesn’t add value to my life.  Monitoring the movements of the Dow and watching Squawk Box can make me feel too emotional about my money, to the point where I may make irrational decisions, based on any one point in time.

Instead, I check on the market a few times a week or so, and that is about it.  My investments are generally for goals way down the road anyway, so it isn’t like I am going to suddenly either pull out all my money or suddenly invest a ton of money in the market.  I dollar cost average our investments, so the value of the market really doesn’t matter to me on any given day.  I am not saying I don’t care, I am saying that it will go up and it will go down, and it will generally trend one way or the other over time.  I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything by not keeping a closer eye on the market.  As a matter of fact, I feel better not paying close attention to the ups and downs.

What do you think?  Do you closely watch the market each day?  Am I being financially irresponsible by not monitoring our investments more frequently?

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

BeatingTheIndex November 19, 2010 at 7:05 am

This is the best approach you can take, dollar cost averaging while being indexed is your ticket to a goodnight sleep. This is what I also do with my retirements savings, I barely check them at the end of the month to update my networth and that’s that!


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

BTI – I couldn’t agree with you more. I have much more peace of mind just investing with the indexes that when I tried investing with individual stocks.


Money Reasons November 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

I do check it everyday, but that is because I have constant exposure to it where I work at!

BeatingTheIndex comment is spot on, a dollar cost averaging scheme is my favorite method of investing, plus if you do a 401k, it’s automated!

As for the market ups and downs… I see the downs as buying opportunities, so I do get a little excited, especially if I think the news the market reacted to is bogus. So I did want to jump in Tuesday, while prices were lower… 🙂

But for me too, the dollar cost averaging method is my main way…


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

MR- I too like to buy on the dips if I have a little extra lying around, but that doesn’ t happen very often these days!


The Biz of Life November 19, 2010 at 7:43 am

And I thought the markets rose because of the euphoria surrounding the GM IPO. I check the markets maybe once a day, or once every couple of days. I want to buy on down days, especially triple digit loss days.


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Biz – Oh, they did rise from the GM IPO too. I just found it ironic that the same overseas event contributed to a fall in the market one day, and a rise in the market two days later.


Nicole November 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

All the research says it’s more responsible to add money to the market regularly to the index funds and ignore it. Let it rebalance automatically once a year or so. Just like beating the index says. As you get closer to needing the money, move the percentages away from stocks and into bonds.

That said, I do like checking how much money we have on the days the markets go up. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I ignore our balances on the days it goes down. CNN tells me what the market is doing every day.


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Nicole, I received what I thought was an update from one of my retirement funds today in the mail and I was all happy to look at it. Instead if was a boring notice of some kind that meant nothing to me. So, I totally know what you mean.


retirebyforty November 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

I am watching the stock market every day, but 2% drop does not effect my state of mind much anymore. I’ve lived though two nutty drops – the Dot Com bubble and the recent Great Recession. The first time, I was very panicky. The second time, it was scary, but I held the course. Now I know as long as I follow my investment philosophy and stick to my asset allocation, I will probably be OK.
I think it’s fine to not watch it everyday. It’s up to you.


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm

RB40- it seems that interesting things in the market happen every once in awhile that causes us to maybe rethink our investment allocations. For instance, for awhile, people started chasing tech, but it was too late. Then the sector bottomed out and people bail, but the timing was all wrong for the buying and the selling. So, index funds work for me.


Joe Plemon November 19, 2010 at 11:22 am

To let you know how often I check the market, I wasn’t aware of any of these “geopolitical events” until I read this post. I guess I don’t watch much news either. I have conservative investments that I am not planning on touching for a long time, so I really don’t care what the market does today or yesterday or tomorrow. Am I too laid back? Probably. But I only have so much emotional energy and I don’t want to squander it on things I can’t control. Oh. By the way. I do check over my monthly statements.


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Joe- I am becoming quite laid back too. I update our balances every couple months or so,and I do check on the market sometimes during the week. However, I used to be much more vigilant, and a lot more nervous. I feel much more peaceful now!


Crystal @ BFS November 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I only check everything at the end of the month for my update posts, lol. It usually makes for better sleep. 🙂


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I agree Crystal. Especially if market events cause you to buy/sell/panic, etc


First Gen American November 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

The only time I checked them regularly was when I was on maternity leave AND I hired a guy to manage my portfolio. It was also during the last crash. Hiring someone had the opposite effect that I thought it would because I was forking over 1% every quarter for the privilege of someone else losing my money.

Now it’s index funds all the way and I’m lucky if I look at my balance once a month.


Kris November 19, 2010 at 4:33 pm

FGA- I agree, I can lose my own money really easily for free!

Index funds are a wonderful thing for sure.


101 Centavos November 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I’m much less obsessed with the daily numbers than I used to be. Probably comes from having found a plan that works for me and sticking to it. I do check the market periodically, depending on the amount of research I’m doing on individual stocks. I’ll spend time surfing on Google and Yahoo finance pages, and can’t help but take in the daily market performance numbers. Once the task is done though, and the buy and sell orders placed, I’m happy to be blissfully ignorant for a while.


Kris November 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm

101 – I remember when I was blissfully ignorant a few months ago. Then I looked at the price of a stock I had sold and my bliss turned to frustration. I should have never checked!


Squirrelers November 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm

You’re not irresponsible for not checking more.

Personally, I had been in the habit of checking daily. Now, just in the last 6 months, I’ve gone to checking much less frequenly. Once a month, if I’m lucky. I just don’t see the purpose of checking every day, unless I would take action each day.

Make no mistake, I’m VERY interested in long-term financial needs and the ability to make sure they are taken care of. But daily checking seems like too much. Kind of like checking blog stats each day (though blog stats are obviously of minute importance in comparison) 🙂


Kris November 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Squirrel – But isn’t it fun to check out blog stats. But I kind of feel the same way – when the visits are low, I get frustrated just like with the stock market. Maybe I should stop looking at those too!


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm

“The market opened at 11,194 on Tuesday and closed at 11,181 on Thursday.”

That places the issue into context rather nicely!


Kris November 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Why thank you Shawn- it really hit me the same way. I read headlines ‘market tanks….blah blah’ then two days later ‘market soars…’ and then I realized ‘what does it really matter? It hits equilibrium one way or another and reacts to things in a manner I don’t always understand’.


Financial Samurai November 21, 2010 at 6:30 am

I like to watch the markets everyday b/c I find it entertaining. A stock market ap doesn’t hurt either 🙂

That said, short term gyrations are such a waste. I do believe in the positive side of things though!


Kris November 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

FS – I like paying attention on the up days. I have to learn to know ahead of time and not check on the down days. 🙂


Valerie November 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

Behavioral economics research actually shows that people who check the market too often do worse in their investments!! (Check out the book “Your money and your brain” for more citations and deeper info on this). That’s right– if you check too often, the tendency is to get scared by changes and move money more often, which never really turns out well. People do better investing when they check the market less frequently, so you should applaud yourself for checking less.


Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Valerie – I absolutely believe what you say in that the closer you monitor your investments, the worse you will do. I have made emotional decisions and sold too soon and ended up losing a ton in opportunity costs.

Thanks for visiting!


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