In December 2008 I decided to substantially increase my investments in the stock market. This turned out to be quite successful. As I said at the time, the economy continues to struggle and the prospects for 2009 did not look good. And I even guessed the stock market (in the USA) would be lower 12 months from now. But, I also said I was far from certain, in that guess and that I had been increasing my stock investment and would continue to do so.
At this time my retirement contributions are going 100% to stock investments (if I were close to retirement I would not do this). I am likely going to reduce the contributions going forward (maybe 75% stocks – 25% money market). Unfortunately my retirement fund does not have great alternatives – it has very good real estate options but I am not ready to start putting new funds there (though I likely will during 2010, at some point).
I did sell reduce my equity exposure in a retirement account that I am not adding to this month. It reduced my overall equity exposure of my portfolio by a couple percentage points, at most. It is still significantly higher than a year ago, due to the incredible gains for 2009 in my stock investments.
Last year I fully fund my Roth IRA, in January and bought Amazon (AMZN), Templeton Emerging Market Fund (EMF) and PetroChina (PTR). I will fully fund the Roth IRA in January again. I am leaning toward some combination of Templeton Emerging Market Fund (EMF), Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock (VWO), Toyota (TM) and maybe Danaher (DHR). I purchased all of those in my non-retirement account in 2009.
Investing well is not easy. Saving money is though, sometime people get these confused. You need to save money for retirement – aim for 10% of your income and invest that conservatively if you do not wish to focus on investing. I have no question fully funding your Roth IRA is a wise move for almost everyone. How to invest once you do that is a bit trickier but funding it is not a difficult question to answer. It was not easy to increase investments into stocks last year, when so many others were selling (and the press is full of stories reinforcing the bad news, bad prospects and risks). You can get great opportunities when others are panicking, but things do not always recovery so nicely.
What the next year holds, again for 2010, if very difficult to see. The economy looks to be in much better shape than a year ago. But it is far from strong. And the recovery in the stock market means the higher prices stocks command today leave more downside risk for stocks, if things do not go well. I am more concentrated in stocks now than I was a year ago, but I am not comfortable with that. I don’t see bonds, even short term bonds, as an acceptable alternative. The risks are not at all justified by the returns in my opinion. I am happy with my real estate investments and may even look to increase that area though I think it may be too early for commercial real estate. I think individual companies may well prosper even if the economy falters – such as Google, Amazon, Danaher, Toyota, Tesco (though Amazon’s price increases may already have more than accounted for this) – all of these are in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.