Should You Buy Index Funds At All-Time Highs?

Jack Bogle Advice: Should you buy Index Funds at All-Time Highs?

As an investor, I know firsthand how painful it can be to continuously invest in an overvalued market.

With the current Schiller PE ratio at around 35 and the Wilshire GDP at 200, it’s clear that the market is quite expensive. However, as a passive investor, I’ve always believed that consistently investing throughout my life and simply buying the whole market is the best strategy for long-term success.

But what should we do in times like these where every metric under the sun is showing us that the market is dangerously overvalued? Luckily, the grandfather of passive investing, Jack Bogle, has some timeless advice for us. In a 1997 speech, Bogle discusses how passive investors should navigate through even the most expensive market situations.

Key Takeaways

  • Keep investing no matter what the market is doing.
  • Give yourself time to invest in stocks and bonds.
  • Have rational expectations about future returns and be mentally prepared for market declines.

Current Market Analysis

Schiller PE and Wilshire GDP

As of today, the Schiller PE ratio is around 35, which means investors are willing to pay double the price for the S&P 500 as compared to what they would normally pay historically. Additionally, the Wilshire GDP/Buffett Indicator is now at 200, which is significantly higher than a fully priced stock market at around 100 and a cheap stock market at 50-60.

Passive Investing

Passive investing has become the most common investing strategy worldwide. It involves buying the entire market and periodically contributing to a broadly diversified portfolio. This method of investing has made a lot of investors a lot of money over a long period of time. However, it can be challenging for passive investors to continue investing during times when the market is dangerously overvalued.

Market Overvaluation

The stock market is currently smashing through all-time highs, and the market is expensive. Investors are speculating on higher and higher valuations, which is driving the market returns in the short run. However, the crystal clear lesson of history is that in the long run, fundamentals drive returns.

Potential Market Correction

In times when the market is overvalued, there are two possible future scenarios. The first scenario is a market drop of 35%, which would lower the price-earnings ratio to a more normal level of about 13 times. The second scenario is a new economic boom time, where businesses can grow very quickly, lifting the intrinsic value of the businesses and thus the market.

As a passive investor, it’s essential to keep investing, as the biggest risk is not investing at all. Additionally, it’s crucial to have rational expectations about future returns and be mentally prepared for market declines. It’s also important to remember that this too shall pass away, and your emotions can kill your investment program. Impulse is your foe, so keeping your emotions out of your investment program is key.

In conclusion, it’s challenging to predict the future of the stock market. However, as a passive investor, it’s essential to continue investing, have rational expectations, and be mentally prepared for market declines. Remember, time is your friend, and compound interest is a miracle.

Role of Passive Investors

As a passive investor, my investment strategy is to buy the whole market and hold onto it for the long term. This strategy has made a lot of investors a lot of money consistently over a long period of time. However, the current market conditions are making it difficult for me and many other passive investors to continue investing in the market.

Passive Investing Strategy

Passive investing is now by far the most common investing strategy in the whole world. The idea here is that we consistently invest throughout our whole life and we simply get the average market return by doing that. There’s no brain power involved, we’re not trying to pick individual stocks, we’re not staying up all night doing research on individual businesses, we’re simply buying the market and going along for the ride.

The ability of this strategy to work across decades and decades, regardless of what market conditions we see, makes this strategy just so powerful. So, as a passive investor, I will continue to show up and invest no matter what the market is doing.

Investing in Overvalued Market

However, the current market conditions are making it difficult for me and many other passive investors to continue investing in the market. The stock market is currently smashing through all-time highs, and the market is expensive. We’re currently looking at a Shiller PE of around 35. What that means is essentially investors are willing to pay realistically double for the S&P 500 as to what they would normally pay for it historically.

We’re also seeing a Wilshire GDP, a Buffett indicator of now 200, which is just insane considering like a fully priced stock market is at about 100 and a cheap stock market is like 50-60. Most of us investors out there are passive investors, and it’s been quite painful showing up and continually sinking more and more money into the market at these levels.

However, as a passive investor, I should remember that the biggest risk I can take right now is not investing at all. It’s essential to keep investing no matter what the market’s doing. I should also have rational expectations about future returns and be mentally prepared for market declines. Impulse is my foe, and my emotions can kill me. I should keep them out of my investment program because impulse is my foe.

Insights from Jack Bogle

Market Conditions in 1997

As a passive investor, it can be challenging to invest during times when the market is overvalued. In 1997, Jack Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, discussed similar market conditions that we are currently experiencing. He observed that speculation was driving stock returns in the short run, while fundamentals of dividend yields and earnings growth were taking a back seat.

Bogle’s observations align with the current market conditions, where investors are willing to pay double for the S&P 500 compared to historical prices. The market is currently expensive, with a Schiller PE of around 35 and a Wilshire GDP/Buffett Indicator of 200, indicating that the market is dangerously overvalued.

Two Possible Future Scenarios

Bogle highlighted two possible future scenarios when the market is overvalued. The first scenario is a market drop of 35 percent, which would lower the price-to-earnings ratio to a more normal level of about 13 times. The second scenario is a new era of boom times and high valuations, where businesses grow very quickly, lifting the intrinsic value of the businesses and the market.

Bogle emphasized that, in the long run, fundamentals drive returns, and price will eventually align with intrinsic value. As passive investors, we should invest in the long-term trends of the stock market, regardless of short-term market conditions.

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Five Timeless Tips

Bogle provided five timeless tips for passive investors to navigate even the most expensive market situations:

  1. Keep investing: The biggest risk is the long-term risk of not putting your money to work at a generous return, not the short-term risk of price volatility. No matter what the market is doing, there is a far bigger risk in not investing than continuing to invest.
  2. Give yourself time: If you’re in your 20s, begin to invest in stocks, and if you’re in your 60s, invest more in bonds and lessen stocks. Remember that compound interest is a miracle, and time is your friend.
  3. Have rational expectations: Be mentally prepared for market declines and have rational expectations about future returns. In good times and bad times alike, “this too shall pass away.”
  4. Stay the course: Stick to your investment plan and avoid making impulsive decisions based on emotions. Your emotions can kill your investment program, so keep them out of it.
  5. Keep costs low: As passive investors, we should aim for low-cost investing. Keep the fees and expenses of your investment portfolio as low as possible.

In conclusion, as passive investors, we should continue to invest regardless of market conditions. We should focus on the long-term trends of the stock market, have rational expectations about future returns, and avoid making impulsive decisions based on emotions. By following these timeless tips from Jack Bogle, we can navigate even the most expensive market situations with confidence and knowledge.

Conclusion

After analyzing the current state of the market and listening to the advice of Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and the grandfather of passive investing, it is clear that passive investors should continue to invest even in times of market volatility and overvaluation. The biggest risk for passive investors is not investing at all, and the power of compound interest over the long term makes this strategy incredibly effective.

It is important to remember that time is your friend, and rational expectations about future returns should be taken into account. Market declines are inevitable, but they too shall pass away. Emotions can be detrimental to your investment program, so it is best to keep them out of the equation and stick to a long-term plan.

While the market may seem dangerously overvalued at the moment, there are still opportunities for passive investors to invest in the long-term trends of the stock market. By following the principles of investing outlined by Jack Bogle, passive investors can navigate even the most expensive market situations with confidence and knowledge.

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton is the founder of Guiding Cents. Martin is a Writer, Solopreneur, and Financial Researcher. Before starting Guiding Cents, Martin has been involved in Personal Finance as a Mortgage Planning Consultant, Licensed Real Estate Agent, and Real Estate Investor.

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