Bye-bye to buy and hold

As if the past few years haven’t been proof enough, the recent plunge in stock prices may finally shut up the chorus of buy and hold investing proponents.  I’ve been saying it for a long time, but maybe hitting people in the pocketbook is the only way to make them understand.

Buy and hold is dead.  It has been dead since the tech bubble popped in 2000, but people just didn’t realize it because Alan Greenspan created the real estate bubble to replace it.

When the S&P 500 index peaked at 1527 in March of 2000, it took until May of 2007 to see those levels again.  7 years of “experts” preaching “buy and hold”, “stay in stocks for the long term”, “you need to be fully invested in stocks if you’re a long term investor”, etc, etc, etc.

The amazing part is that people listened to the “experts” – and followed their advice for 7 years of negative returns on their money.  I’ll put it another way.  If you put $1000 into the stock market in 2000, you didn’t break even until 2007.  0% return.

If you put $1000 into the stock market before or after 2000, you might have had some return on your money depending on when you invested, but you didn’t have much.

With the market close today, you’ve lost money if you bought into the stock market at anytime since April of 1997.  I’m no math wizard, but I know this is February, 2009, and April 1997 was 12 years ago.  That’s a long time to wait just to break even.

Since the late 80’s, I’ve followed a simple strategy that the “experts” kept saying was a losing strategy – I buy when the 75 day EMA crosses above to 200 day EMA, and I sell when the 75 day EMA goes under to 200 day EMA.

It’s an extremely simple strategy for long term investments like 401k’s and other IRA’s.  You don’t move in and out of the market very often, but you’re in the market when stocks are rising, and you’re out when they’re falling.

As a result of following this strategy, I got out of stocks in January of 2008 when the S&P 500 was still over 1300.  I didn’t get faked out by the false bottoms during 2008, and I’m still in cash and bonds.  My money is just setting there, waiting until the 75 day EMA turns back up and crosses over the 200 day EMA.

This strategy will beat the snot out of buy and hold, and it’s extremely easy to follow.  You can check out a chart of it here on Yahoo Finance.

Maybe the “experts” will finally shut up – or better yet – maybe people will learn to make their own decisions about investments.  When you do, don’t be surprised if you start realizing that the “experts” also don’t understand capitalism and free markets.  Read other posts in this blog if you’re curious about those subjects.


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