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#13: Unlearn These 3 Big Investment Myths, Holding You Back

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SUMMARY

Suri debunks the 3 biggest investment myths that might be holding many women back, from taking control of their money and growing their wealth through investing. Join in the conversation and leave a comment.

This episode was made using:

TRANSCRIPT – edited for clarity

INTRO: Well hello hello. Welcome back to my little corner of the world again my dear parents. Come right in. This is your host Suri and you’re listening to Doing Things On Purpose, the podcast that empowers women to take charge of their time, health, relationships, and money by doing things on purpose.

This week I’ve been thinking about top 3 investment myths that I think we can all be reminded to unlearn.

So in Episodes 10 and 11, I’ve focused specifically on the topic of money for women, in terms of money-mindset, how to auto-allocate your family income into strategic buckets to take care of your expenses, retirement savings and to fund your other goals in life.

And then last week in Episode 12, I also shared my Money Mastery Template with you, which is a straight forward form that you can download and fill in, to get going with managing your money. If you missed it, you can find it on my website, or go directly to suristahel.com/moneymastery.

So after this, I’ll probably take a little break from talking about money. Because although I love this topic, it’s just one part of my life that I spend my attention and energy on. And I hope that’s true for you too.

But if you’re ever wanting to revisit my episodes about money, just go to my podcast page at suristahel.com/podcast, and go ahead and click on the category ‘money.’ Any past and future episodes on this topic will show up there. 

CHECK-IN: Before we dive into today’s episode, let’s take a moment to do this week’s Mom Check-in. For those of you who are new here, this is a way for me to recognize and honor the ‘whole’ of you, as a person. Because although we want to take care of all of the different people and things in our lives, it all starts with taking care of ourselves. 

  • So how has your self-care routine worked out last week, my dear moms? Or dads… or whoever’s listening. 
  • I entered my winter period, which means I’m menstruating. I felt a lot more tired than usual and so, was quite mindful to communicate this to my family. I think managing expectations has helped so much in reducing my overall stress about what should happen and when. 
  • My right arm’s feeling a lot better. One tip if you have problems with full range of motion as you get older, maybe around your shoulder joints like me – is to try going out for a hike once in a while with two walking sticks. Or just do this swinging motion at home, with or without equipment. But whatever works for you, just remember to take time to tend to both your physical and mental wellbeing – to keep focusing on showing up for yourself, each and every single day.
  • And finally, do you feel good about how you’ve managed your time in the past week? I was checking my email a few days ago, and saw a reminder from my daughter’ scout leader. I had remembered to add their upcoming visit to the Zoo into our family’s Google Calendar, but I’d somehow forgotten to hit ‘reply’ and register her for that event. I was so grateful for the reminder. And I’m so impressed with these young adults – these boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties, who are always on time sending out weekly scout invitations, volunteering to organize and lead these activities practically without fail, and sending reminders to forgetful parents like me… besides managing their own personal studies and apprenticeship work on the side as well. 

Wow. Such a valuable time-management skill to pick up early in life, for sure. 

Anyway, I hope you’re also trying your best to set a good example for yourself, and others by not letting things on your to-do list slide too much. Keep at it. Focus on what’s important for you, and learn to say no when it’s just too much some days. 

As always, you can find my best tips on managing time, at suristahel.com/time.

SURI: Now let’s get into today’s topic of the three biggest investment myths that I found were holding me and my husband back, from starting to invest our money earlier on, as a family. These are things that I invite you to also unlearn, if you’re looking to find the courage to finally start learning about investing and growing your money passively, and independently. 

These myths are just one of the many passed-down beliefs that I think have simply remained unquestioned. Now I do understand the temptation to look for shortcut answers. That we as parents often don’t have time to learn something new, and it can seem easier to just borrow other people’s beliefs and adopt them as our own. 

But the truth is, when things go wrong, we just want to be able to say that it’s someone else’s fault – namely that family member, friend or financial advisor who gave us the wrong advice. 

But I’m here to tell you to stop. To NOT choose to stick your head in the sand. Because these unquestioned, fear-based myths, have probably caused me, you and many more women like us, from demystifying the topic of personal finance, for far too long. It’s probably already costed you 5, 10 or even 20 years of passive compounded growth on your savings, because someone you trust always told you that ‘now’s really not a good time to invest.’

Myth #1: Investing Is Just Gambling 

Did you know that big solid institutions that you and I rely on to keep our money safe and sound, be it the bank, the government social welfare fund, our pension fund at work, insurance companies selling you things like life insurance, health insurance and pension protection annuities – all invest your money in the stock market?

Why is this so? 

Because when you take the long term view, being invested in the stock market is historically really the only good way to stay ahead of inflation. Google this statement, or buy a book about it to find out for yourself if I’m telling the truth. 

What happens is that these institutions don’t just pool your money together so they’ll have enough to disseminate when someone needs to withdraw or make a claim. They take any amount that they don’t need in the short term to cover operating costs and growth – and they invest that money into the stock market to make it grow. 

Because remember, your money just sitting in a vault, is losing value every day because of inflation. 

And these institutions need to grow enough money to pay their managers and employees, while also keeping their promises to you depending on the type of product that you’ve purchased. That’s why, the annualized interest that any insurance product or annuity promises to secure you, is always at a much lower rate than the average annualized return of the S&P 500 or even VT, the Total World Stock Market index ETF, which have both an annualized return of around 9-10% (or 7% inflation adjusted) in the last 30 years.

Side note: I find return percentages finicky to measure and quote, because different sources might give slightly different numbers, I’m not a math geek to calculate it myself, and to me, it’s really a moving target anyway. Why do I say this? Because as the years go by, the annualized percentage of returns per year, or for the last 2, 3, 5 or 30 years, will shift slightly with the addition of new historical data. Does that make sense? If I’m wrong, please correct me.

Truth: Investing is a very good way to secure your money.

Going back to my point. Investing, when done purposefully and without emotion, is actually the best way for institutions and for you yourself, to secure and grow the value of your money.

Myth #2: Recessions Are Bad for Investors

Have you ever asked a trusted friend or family member if now’s the time to invest and they say ‘no.’ You ask again a year later, and the answer remains the same. Because it just so happened that the last few years, the stock market hasn’t really been doing that great.

So you never start investing.

They can be forgiven, because they were only trying to protect you. But in reality, their perspective on investing is actually costing you to miss out on a profitable moment to buy into the stock market. 

Because the truth is quite the opposite. 

Truth: Recessions are a great time for investors to buy into the stock market.

Whether you’re a new investor or you’re looking to pick up more of your favorite ETFs and stocks, recessions are like the “sale season” of the stock market. You get more for your buck. 

When you’ve observed your favorite ETF or individual stock over the course of a year, you’ll notice many dips (some big, some small) that affect the price of the stock during that period. These actually present great opportunities for buying into that investment, or buying even more of it if you can. 

These dips can happen due to a variety of short-term events like a company scandal that hits the news cycle, new government regulations, an interest rate hike by the US central bank, a change in trends or technological advancements, political unrest, or even due to natural disaster. But these events don’t mean that the US or world market that you invested in is of less value now – or that the big company that you invested in is now worthless. No, it’s just a small glitch in the greater scheme of things, and please know that the stock market doesn’t reflect what is – it reflects market expectation.

Think about this: Imagine that because of oversupply, the supermarket in your town ran a sale on toilet paper which you know you need and want to get anyway. Would you stock up on more of it or wait until the sale ended?

Silly question. Easy answer.

You stock up. Not like a crazy person and buy the whole shelf. But sensibly and with the money that you have to spend.

Of course, you don’t have to buy extra if you don’t have money set aside to do so. But at the very least, keep buying into your investments both during the good times, and especially during the bad times. 

Don’t view investing as a one time thing. Don’t fall into the trap of buying an investment for 20 or 50k from your banker once, and forgetting about it until you retire. 

Use a discount broker or robo-advisor that allows you to easily buy, sell and monitor your investments yourself. Or if your robo advisor or discount broker allows you to set monthly recurring investments with the money that you’ve transferred in each month – even better. 

Then when recession hits, you can consciously uninstall all your mobile investment apps, and decide not to look at the performance of your portfolio and just let the system work for you.

Avoid panic with this tip: Historically, I think as an investor, you should be prepared to lose up to 30 – 40% of your well-diversified portfolio, during the really tough times. Knowing this might help you stay strong, stay in the market and keep dollar-cost-averaging or buying even more, during the dips in the market.

And remember that drops in the value of your stocks are only paper losses. They only become real, when you decide to sell your investments at a loss. This is also true with your gains.

Warren Buffet said it best, “The most important quality for an investor is temperament, and not intellect.” 

So make a plan – and stick to it.

Myth #3: There’s No Such Thing as a Safe Investment

I might sound like a broken record but keeping your money in the bank is not exactly safe either. It’s just safer than keeping it under your mattress or in a metal box, in case your house burns down. 

And what exactly is ‘safe’? 

❌ Did you know that if you kept your money in a Swiss bank account and the bank goes into bankruptcy, as Credit Suisse did recently:

  • Your cash is only protected by Esisuisse depositor’s insurance, up to the amount of CHF 100k per customer.
  • Your uninvested Pillar 3a retirement accounts are not protected by deposit insurance. However, it is considered ‘privileged’ under bankruptcy law, up to an additional CHF 100k per depositor. 

❌ That means, anything you keep above CHF 100k in cash in Switzerland, whether in your savings account, or CHF 100k in your Pillar 3a retirement account, will not be protected. So how safe does that make you feel?

Things look slightly better in the US, where the FDIC insures up to $250k per account holder. And if you hold more money in cash, you have the option to add up to 6 beneficiaries to your account – increasing your insured coverage by an additional $250k per added beneficiary. That means, if you have 6 beneficiaries, your cash will be insured up to a total of $1.5 million. That’s not bad.

But what if you were to invest your money? As in:

  • Anything above your emergency savings.
  • Anything you don’t need to touch, in the next 1 to 3 years or more.

✅ Both in Switzerland, the US, and the rest of the world as far as I know; if you invest your money, whether through your privileged retirement account or through your standard taxable brokerage account – any funds, shares and bonds that you buy remain protected, even if your broker or custodian bank collapses. 

✅ This is because of the basic rule that investments in the form of securities are actually your property which are simply held by the bank for safekeeping. They remain yours and will be transferred to a different brokerage and custodian bank, if either your brokerage firm or custodian bank fails.

But isn’t there a risk that the value of my stocks and ETFs might take a nosedive and I lose everything?

Yes and no.

Yes, if you invest in one company and it fails, you lose your money if you don’t sell out before the stock price dips below your average purchasing price. That’s why buying shares of individual companies falls under the riskier type of investing. 

Because individual firms don’t survive forever. You have to monitor it. Because of this fact, some investors even totally avoid investing in individual companies. But that’s if they can resist the tempting 30% or more average annualized return, that only individual stocks can offer, compared to average performing ETFs and index funds.

Truth: Safe investments exist, if you can be satisfied with a modest return of 7 to 12%, annualized – via target-date-funds or global ETFs.

💎 The most conservative approach to a practically sure-win investment would be buying target-date mutual or exchange-traded funds. These are available through your brokerage account or from fund providers themselves such as Vanguard (surprise!), Black Rock and Fidelity. 

These funds work to gradually rebalance and reallocate your assets to a more conservative mix (more bonds and cash, less stocks), the closer you get to your retirement.

💎 The next less conservative way is to simply invest in the entire world stock market through ETFs or index funds, like the Vanguard Total World ETF (VT) or the Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (VWRL/VWRD), for those in Europe. 

Before we go on, let me explain what Exchange Traded Funds or ETFs are.

People like to describe ETFs or index funds as a basket of hundreds or even thousands of stocks, that track the equity market of a certain region or sector. They can cover the whole world, or focus on specific countries or industries.  

As a sure-win option, the Vanguard Total World ETF (VT), right now as of September 2023, holds about 9,500 stocks from different companies around the world, weighted according to market capitalization. Its European counterpart is the Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (VWRL/VWRD), which holds about 3,700 stocks. 

💎 Those who live in the United States and want to focus on the entire US market (which also operates globally), can consider investing in VTI which holds about 3,800 US stocks.

When you invest in these types of diversified ETFs, your investments will practically never fail unless the entire world market, or the entire US economy goes bust. And if that happens, I guess we would all have other problems to worry about.

In reality, investing long term in a target-date-fund, or a diversified world ETF or index fund is a very safe investment. 

SUMMARY: Before I revisit the main points of this episode, here are some funny observations I’ve made as an investor:

  1. Financial data and articles online or anywhere, get constantly outdated. When I started monitoring the stock market, I started to realize that different websites or the newspapers always give me different figures. This is because the articles were written at different points in time – obviously. My tip is to always check the date the article is written, to see if you need to double check the information provided. 
  2. Don’t believe everything a financial journalist tells you. Always take a financial article’s advice, even in the newspaper, with a grain of  salt. I learned this the hard way. I once read an armageddon-like article on a premier Swiss brokerage website, warning people against buying US-domiciled ETFs. I contacted the renowned financial journalist of over 30 years who had written regularly for the Motley Fool, The Observer, and other financial newspapers, to question the accuracy of his article. What I got back surprised me. He said: it was one of his more ‘fun’ articles, that he wasn’t a financial advisor but only a financial expert for as long as it took him to write the article – and now he’s an expert on other stuff… So be very careful who you trust. 

That’s why personally, I’ve decided to only trust knowledgeable people with big hearts ❤️, rather than someone with simply high credentials.

  1. Risk assessments are subjective, depending on who you ask. One of the first things you’ll be asked to do as an investor, is to analyze your risk tolerance. But not everyone views risk the same way. 
    • To some investors, investing 100% in stocks in the form of a global ETF is considered very conservative – because they compare it to riskier investments like individual stocks, trend ETFs and crypto. 
    • On the other hand, banks and robo advisors tend to categorize a 100% investment in the stock market even in ETFs as risky, because they compare it to a portfolio that holds bonds and other investments to reduce volatility. 
    • ⚠️ However, they don’t tell you that these non-stock investments also reduce your portfolio’s performance over time and are simply a means to reduce losses on paper when markets are in a downward trend.

But again, if you understand that it’s healthy for the stock market to go up and down during its overall upward trajectory, you won’t worry about paper losses. So you’re never at risk of selling your investments at the worst possible time – thus realizing those losses. 

That’s why our retirement investments are 100% in global ETFs and index funds, with a slight home bias. If you’re more skittish, consider a 70-30 or 60-40 mix of stocks to bonds allocation. 

Again, this is our personal preference at this season of our life, and perhaps we’ll change later on. 

👉 So to cap off this episode, let’s recap the 3 big investment myths that might be holding you back from investing:

Myth #1: Investing Is Just Gambling 

Truth: Investing is a very good way to secure your money.

Myth #2: Recessions Are Bad for Investors

Truth: Recessions are a great time for investors to buy into the stock market.

Myth #3: There’s No Such Thing as a Safe Investment

Truth: Safe investments exist, if you can be satisfied with a modest return of 7 to 12%, annualized – via target-date-funds or global ETFs.

OUTRO: Okay, that’s all I have for you this week. I really do hope this podcast has been helpful. If so please don’t forget to subscribe, and rate this show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thank you so much for tuning in. This is Doing Things on Purpose. I’m your host Suri, and I’ll catch you again next time.

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