Peter Lynch: Horizon Matters Most When Talking about Market Timing

The market itself is very volatile. We’ve had 95 years completed this century. We’re in the middle of 1996 and we’re close to a 10 percent decline. In the 95 years so far, we’ve had 53 declines in the market of 10 percent or more. Not 53 down years. The market might have been up 26 finished the year up four, and had a 10 percent correction. So we’ve had 53 declines in 95 years. That’s once every two years. Of the 53, 15 of the 53 have been 25 percent or more. That’s a bear market. So 15 in 95 years, about once every six years you’re going to have a big decline. Now no one seems to know when there are gonna happen. At least if they know about ’em, they’re not telling anybody about ’em. I don’t remember anybody predicting the market right more than once, and they predict a lot. So they’re gonna happen. If you’re in the market, you have to know there’s going to be declines. And they’re going to cap and every couple of years you’re going to get a 10 percent correction. That’s a euphemism for losing a lot of money rapidly. That’s what a “correction” is called. And a bear market is 20-25-30 percent decline. They’re gonna happen. When they’re gonna start, no one knows. If you’re not ready for that, you shouldn’t be in the stock market. I mean stomach is the key organ here. It’s not the brain. Do you have the stomach for these kind of declines? And what’s your timing like? Is your horizon one year? Is your horizon ten years or 20 years? If you’ve been lucky enough to save up lots of money and you’re about to send one kid to college and your child’s starting a year from now, you decide to invest in stocks directly or with a mutual fund with a one-year horizon or a two-year horizon, that’s silly. That’s just like betting on red or black at the casino. What the market’s going to do in one or two years, you don’t know. Time is on your side in the stock market. It’s on your side. And when stocks go down, if you’ve got the money, you don’t worry about it and you’re putting more in, you shouldn’t worry about it. You should worry what are stocks going to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now. I’m very confident.

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