Why I haven’t been seriously upset about the market downturn

[ETA: Kate at Goodnight Debt made one of my favorite comments of the year on this post: “TL;DR: Zoom out. It’s fine.” So if you don’t feel like looking at all my charts, you can just stop right here.]

Like everyone else, I “lost” a bunch of money during the recent (possibly ongoing — I doubt we’re out of the woods) stock market “correction.” Reporting my net worth numbers has definitely been way less fun the last couple of months, but it’s kind of interesting to measure my emotional reaction based on what chart I’m looking at in Personal Capital. (All these screenshots are from September 15, and Personal Capital doesn’t capture all my accounts; just the savings and investment ones. Thus, the numbers I report on the blog, which do include my checking account, tend to be a bit higher.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.38.49 PMThis is my net worth as measured by Personal Capital over the 30 days from August 15 to September 15. Spot the correction! Hint: it’s that gigantic three-day drop (with a flat line for the weekend) and it looks just awful, doesn’t it? However, if you look carefully, you’ll see that the Y-axis of the graph runs from $23.5K to $26K. That hyper-dramatic drop was only a couple thousand dollars. Not chump change, but qualified when seen on this one:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.34.05 PMThat’s just my retirement portfolio over the same 30 days. The Y-axis runs from $0 to $20K this time — and while the dip is visible, it’s barely visible.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.34.23 PMInterestingly, it shows up a little bit more on the 90-day retirement portfolio chart….

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.34.48 PMAnd even more on the 185-day chart (see it over there on the right-hand side?)

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.35.16 PMAnd, finally, it’s also quite visible on the right-hand side of this “since the beginning of 2015” chart.

At the same time…. All of those charts make it clear that the dip, while dramatic for a few days and not totally insignificant, are a small part of the story of my portfolio in 2015. Much more significant? The great growth in my 403(b), which is the dark blue (my Roth IRA, to which I’ve only contributed about $1000 this year, is the aqua.) That came a little bit from dividends and market growth, which I can’t control, but almost entirely, it came from my contributions, which I can control. When the stock market dropped, even at its worst, it barely dented that big blue/aqua mass. And that’s why it didn’t upset me much. Even though I would like to see it climb again anyway 🙂

6 thoughts on “Why I haven’t been seriously upset about the market downturn

  1. Hannah says:

    It’s good to keep that perspective. Volatility is nothing to be afraid of, even if you lose as much as you’ve contributed the whole year over the course of a few days. Our graph for the year isn’t quite as pretty, but we’re still trucking along. Maybe we will hit our July peak again before the end of the year.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I didn’t have nearly as far to fall as many people, so it was easier to get back in the vicinity of my July peak simply through making my regular contributions (although the recent rise back into Dow-17000 territory has helped a ton too.) But the volatility just isn’t that big a deal, especially at our age.

  2. or TL;DR Zoom out. It’s fine.

    Your 403(b) increase is fun to watch. LOOK AT IT GROW! You’ve inspired me to make my own graphs like this. Mine looks like sedimentary rock. lol

    1. thesingledollar says:

      “Zoom out, it’s fine” — I love it! New motto! I’m cross-stitching that one on a pillow.

  3. Those charts are so pretty — look at that nice blue growth! You’re right — nothing to see here in terms of the market correction. The only reason we’ve lamented the downturn/correction is because it took us off track for reaching our goals this year. Solution: different goals. There, done. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      “When you can’t meet your goals, lower the bar and move on” 🙂 Love it. I try to make my goals more about my input than about outcomes.

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