Tom Putnam, Fenimore Asset Management’s Founder & Executive Chairman, has a saying, “You have to be aboard the train before it leaves the station.” His analogy pertains to investing, especially investors who believe that they can time the market.
Market timers hope they can catch the market at its highest or lowest point in an attempt to maximize returns and often let their emotions get in the way of rational decision making. They become fearful and sell when they should buy. The typical result is that they miss market upswings and their gains are much less than what they would have been if they had just stayed the course. Trying to time the market does not work over the long term.
Nobel Laureate William Sharpe found that stock market timers must be right most of the time just to equal the returns that buy-and-hold, long-term investors achieve. While long-term investors are steady, market timers sweat over when is the best time to get in or out of the market. There is an overwhelming amount of research that shows that long-term investing — even through a stock market downturn — yields better results over the years than trying to time a decline, remove capital, and return when “things are better.”
Some investors are concerned that the train is going to sputter. The fact is, at some juncture, it will — it’s an inevitable part of the journey. When the market drops, Fenimore seeks opportunities to invest in what we believe are quality, well-managed businesses at a discount to our estimate of their economic worth. We try to use downturns to strengthen our mutual funds for the long haul.
Long-term investing or market timing? It’s your decision. But if you’re looking for us, we’ll be on the train.