Jealous of the Millennials: Sometimes.

I’ll admit to occasional jealous feelings regarding millennials.

One jealousy stems from their young, healthy knees and ankles.  I would kill 6 millennials love to be able to run fast and play soccer without pain.  A post about how “joint pain sucks” is too whiny, so instead this post examines the millennials’ blissful warm fuzzy feeling and attitude about investing.

Millennials became adults as the stock market began a huge climb.  Investing was generously rewarded, and hooked millennials on investing. The more money they saved and invested, the more their earnings have rolled in.  Anyone who began investing after 2009 has only seen the good side of stock markets.  The scariest “events” these new investors have ever experienced are down periods of 60-day 2-4% drops.

It might even be better for millennials who graduated around 2007.  These guys began as the carnage unfolded, and if they bought through the dip, were rewarded with bargain stock prices.  Everyone around them was freaking out, but new investors weren’t losing any money, because they hadn’t built their bankrolls yet.  2007 through 2010 was an unbelievable opportunity to accumulate stocks before the magnificent upward climb.

People my age (mid 40’s who graduated from college in the mid 90’s).

My investor sentiment isn’t so rosy.  I feel edgy, nervous, scared about investments, and log in to check my investment account daily.  It doesn’t fit my personality, and I doubt anyone would describe me as a nervous person.  I believe my nervousness around stocks is due to the timing of my graduation from college.

I’ll break the JumpStart investment history into 4 periods of time.

1995 to 2000

Mrs. JumpStart and I graduated college in 95 and 96 during a solid bull run.  We both found teaching jobs, and have worked steadily ever since.  The late 90’s was a great time for the stock market. Day-trading was rampant, and everybody was making money.  In 1996, I began investing with an automatic draft of $200 each month, sent straight into a mutual fund. At the time, our teacher salaries were less than $26k each.  We didn’t have much debt, but we wanted lots of expensive things like better cars, decent furniture, tools, a house, and kids.  I knew about compounding interest, and at the time felt $2400/year was a great start.

Our mutual fund was appreciating, and a couple of years later, I opened an E-Trade account, picked some individual stocks, and funded it with extra money.  At the turn of the millennium, we had about 10 grand invested.  At the time, I believed my $10k would double 5 or 6 times before retirement, and investing was great.

2000 to 2005

This 5 year chunk was a wonderful time for our family.  We had 2 kids, upgraded to our current house, and got some pay raises.

During our happy time, the stock market was in turmoil, and the good times were over. We finally had thousands invested, but we and everyone else began losing money.  I dutifully kept investing $2400 per year.  Most of my individual stock picks were losers (temporarily), and I pulled the extra money out of the market.

The investing vibe was depressing, and stock were just no fun. By 2005 there had been a partial rebound, but our investments which had been at work for 5 to 10 years had still lost money.  We had discipline, and were doing the right things, but weren’t reaping any rewards.  Real estate was a different story, and had a fun vibe.  The value of our house was climbing partially because of renovations, and partially due to our neighborhood.

2005 to 2010.

The beginning of this period raised our financial hopes, but then unbelievable pain ensued.  By now we actually have significant money to lose.  It isn’t there from earnings, but from savings.  We stepped up our automatic withdrawals to $400 per month.  It is horrifying watching your accounts fall in value.  I remember not even opening my brokerage statements, out of fear. 2009 was the low point.  We were almost a full 15 years into our adult lives.  Our dollar cost averaged 14 years of investing had still actually lost money. In addition to our portfolio pain, the bad economy caused school systems to freeze salaries.  The bad economy wasn’t stopping our expenses including gas, electricity and children from escalating.

2010 to Now.

I don’t need to describe the pure investing bliss of the last 8 years. Everybody already knows and feels it. Our current monthly auto-invest is $500, and our account value smashed upward through the $100,000 mark, a few years ago.

Today

Currently, I feel, behave, and invest scared.  I cashed my kid’s college funds out of stocks several years before the tuitions were due.  The switch to cash was partly due to FAFSA reasons, but mostly due to fear that the good times would end quickly.  I’m always wondering when the next big crash is going to hit.  My brain knows I shouldn’t try to time the market, but I fantasize about switching to a big cash position months before a 25% market crash, enabling me buy up all the bargains.

I’m jealous of the millennials getting a huge run with their initial money, and their happy investing vibe that is ingrained in their personalities.  If I had been born 5 years earlier, followed similar habits, then I believe I would be less nervous, and know I would have lots more money today.  Although that period from 2000 to 2010 was rough on everyone.

On the other hand, millennials do face 2 challenges I’m glad I never dealt with.

The first is the crazy high cost of college, and the resulting burden of student loan debt.

The second is the likelihood of being captured by photographs and video.  The only proof of my foolish actions throughout the 80’s and 90’s are spoken accounts from people, who are definitely either mistaken or lying.

Extra picture added because of comment by Steveark.  Dow graph from 1980 to present.

Posted in Family finances.

9 Comments

  1. Your granddaddy is proud!
    He was huge stock market believer: little bit saved each month over a long period of time = smiles!
    No worries: God is Good:)

  2. Let me present the counter argument. You’ve been through the downturn so you know how bad it can be. If all you’ve ever known is up is there a higher chance you’ll take more risk then your prepared to handle? Put another way, is your skittishness a product of the scenario or your real risk tolerance. If the latter your better off as the next time the market drops by 50% (and it will), you won’t run to the exit at the bottom. They might.

    • Thanks for the counter FTF. Post kind of felt strange when I was done, because it was mostly about emotion. It was also preceded by a Thanksgiving post. My brain gets exactly what you are saying. Would be nice to have good knees though.

  3. This is a great post Mr. Jump Start. The reason is that you have carefully detailed the exact feelings of many many of my coworkers and those around me. As you might have already suspected, I am a millennial. But I started paying attention to investing in the late 90s. I did not open my first investing account for a couple years, but I remember watching the markets crash in 00-03 and then again 08-09. I remember the endless feeling. The second round included my meager life savings. Nothing like a 401k and also no long term thinking and fear, but quite distressing nonetheless.

    I suspect that the next go-round will be much tougher and more painful. Still there are three things I lean on:

    1. Ain’t no other way out. Its not like there is a sure thing somewhere else – and by the way, you’ll never get there without growth anyway. And while you are at it, you might as well throw in your lot with the historical winner.

    2. If this grand old experiment fails, then saving wasn’t going to save you anyway. Example – harsh crash wipes out the economy. No one has money and worse, no one has anything to give you. You have a 1,000,000 in a savings account – who cares?

    3. The fear of investing stems largely from our psychology. We fear loss much more than we fear missing out on gain. And if there is anything worth fighting, its your ancient psychology.

  4. Thanks HM. Psychology is a weird thing. The other example is asking poker players about big wins and big losses. Every poker player has lots of stories about getting unlucky and losing hands. They have very few stories about lucking out and winning a big pot. The feeling of loss is more extreme than the feeling of winning.

  5. I’m sixtyish so it is kind of amusing reading your thinking about millennials. I have three millennial kids who are saving for retirement already. In my case the S&P 500 was about 200 when I started maxing out my retirement accounts in 100% equities. Now the S&P is 2600. So you can imagine how much my accounts have prospered, enough that I left the corporate world early, no longer needing an income and will never spend my investments except a small portion of their growth. However I accumulated and grew wealth in spite of not only the corrections you mentioned but a couple of monsters that were before your time in 1987 and again in the tech crash of 2000-2002. I saw my net worth cut in half more than once but I never moved a single share and just rode it out. I think both you and the millennials will be just fine if you save aggressively, like 20% or higher of your gross pay and invest it in stocks or real estate. It is a plan that has never failed anyone.

    • Thanks for another perspective Steveark. I added a graph of the dow beginning in 1980, and it has a totally different feel to it. The first third of it looks smooth and then escalates upward sharply about the time I graduated from college.
      I know the smaller magnitude makes it appear smoother, but the percentage swings were just as severe, and just as scary. It is always terrifying to see those 50% drops. It is great to read an example from someone who invested so smartly.

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