Will The Bull Market Last In Stocks And Real Estate?

It's bull markets baby. Now that we're at record highs in 2021, well over 10 years since the bottom of the financial crisis, I'm left wondering now whether it's time to take profits and sell everything.

If you've been 100% invested in equities since the beginning of the year, you are likely only up 11%. If you've got a 50/50 mix of equities and bonds, you're likely up in the mid single digits.

It's always a good time to reassess one's portfolio once a quarter, especially towards the end of the year. One should take a view on the markets and rebalance accordingly. This goes for both bull markets and bear markets. If you've been following my site for a while, you know that I have a very optimistic outlook on many things.

Perhaps it's because things are so robust in San Francisco thanks to so many great companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and eBay all thriving. Then again, I've always been very upbeat. San Francisco is a great city for millennials and people working in tech.

Will The Bull Markets Keep On Going?

Below are some positives and negatives I can think about that will help in the thinking process on how long the bull markets may last.

The positives: Interest rates are still low (as investors flee to bonds), unemployment improving, oil prices are low meaning lower input costs.

The negatives: EuroZone debt crisis, China crisis, oil going to zero, US state budget woes, political gridlock.

Positive anecdotes: Raised rent by 10% in one of my rentals this fall.  Vacation rental pre-bookings to Lake Tahoe have been the strongest I've seen in years.  Buses are so jam packed they skip stops, necessitating I walk three stops away to get on.  I have to call at least a week in advance to get reservations at a restaurant that averages $75 a person.

There is a tech IPO frenzy in San Francisco with companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Pinterest, etc all going public. If you have any anxiety about the markets, don't worry. The economy will be just fine.

Online advertising income has been consistently on a stable to upward trajectory all year. A friend went from an average $3,500/month two bedroom rental and bought a $3 million house out of the blue due to a liquidity event. A couple friends are finding jobs and leads again when they couldn't this summer.

Negative anecdotes: Compensation firms think bonuses will be down 20-40% in the financial industry on average.  Mass layoffs at companies such as American Express and the US Postal service seem inevitable.  The vacation property market is still quite weak.

Related: Asset Allocation Review – How Much Richer Do You Feel In This Bull Market?

Observations About Observations

It's interesting to note the list of negatives is so short. The markets tanked when the S&P rating agency first downgraded the US credit rating one notch. Since every rating agency is downgrading every country now, the markets are no longer reacting negatively since it doesn't matter! We're about the same!

We all know about the problems over in Europe as well as how screwed up our political system is. Therefore, we expect our Congress to do nothing and Europe to fall into the abyss. Since our expectations are so low, any progress will be taken as a positive.

The underlying fundamentals of the economy are definitely improving. And that makes me hopeful the bull markets will continue. But things just seem to be taking way longer than expected. Whatever the case, so long as the direction is correct, we'll get there.

Investment Performance By Asset Class 2019

Rebalancing History And Now

My major rebalances this year was going from 100% equities on Jan 1 down to 30% equities and 70% cash on April 29. The portfolio was up 11% and I wrote an article on Yakezie.com entitled, “Sell In May And Go Away: Stock Rebalancing Time“.  I then went 97% cash at the end of October after the markets tanked and came back a little, and on November 25 rebalanced the portfolio to 50% equities, 50% cash.

The reasoning for buying stocks was that the S&P500 was down 7.8% at the time and my portfolio was up 10.5% for a 18.3% outperformance.  If the markets rallied, I would significantly lose outperformance.  With a 50% allocation in stocks, the markets would have to go down 21% for me to start losing money in the portfolio.  On the flip side, the markets would have to rally over 36.6% for me to start underperforming the markets with a 50/50 allocation.  But if that's the case, I don't mind at all.

A 50% allocation in cash (not bonds) with the rest in equities is pretty conservative.  It basically says, “There's a lot of uncertainty out there and I don't have much conviction and want to play it safe.”  I'm usually 70-85% equities on average and the rest bonds/stocks.  I realize I will never get super rich being up just 10-15% a year, but with the 10-year yield at only 2%, I've decided that 10% is my hurdle rate of return for practically all asset classes.

Related: The Refinance Window Is Closing: Historical Charts Of The 10-Year Yield

Capital Preservation And Decreased Volatility

When your mother fund starts getting chunky, capital preservation and decreased volatility is what you start to seek. Let's say you max out your 401K or whatever retirement vehicle you have every year for 20 years. You'll probably have $500,000-$1,000,000 after performance and company match. 

The $19,500 a year contribution doesn't make a big difference anymore because a 10% return on $500,000 is $50,000. If you end up losing 20% one year, that's $100,000 gone! At a $19,500 a year 401K max contribution, that will take 6 years to make that money back!  The more you have, the more careful you need to be with your money.

I believe in stocks for the long term, especially as the world's largest central banks continue to print money. The real question is whether we can use our ever devaluing cash to buy stocks and real assets quick enough! When I first wrote this post, my gut said that the bull market is not back, and that if we can return 10% in 2012, that will be another home run!

When I reviewed this post again on 9/18/2017, I realized that I was way too pessimistic! But at least I did not sell my San Francisco home in 2012 for $1.7M. Instead, I sold it in June 2017 for $2.74M. You can check out my predictions for stocks and real estate in 2021 here.

San Francisco and Nationwide real estate also reaching all-time highs


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33 thoughts on “Will The Bull Market Last In Stocks And Real Estate?”

  1. Wow, that is some variability in your asset allocation. I’m very concerned about Europe. But since I invest for long term I’m keeping a steady asset allocation, maybe upping USA equities a bit.

  2. I am keeping an eye on the Eurozone, especially with Italian debt coming due the end of January, 2012. It could go badly, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. That said, we are continuing our strategy of our 401K being in a fund geared to our age. Since we are retired that is going to be a fairly conservative strategy. We also have some stocks in commodity-related companies as a hedge against inflation. I’ll be happy if the bull is back as it will help that hedge as well as monies in our pension funds.

  3. Roshawn @ Watson Inc

    I LOVE your idea of a punt fund. I’m bullish for 2012. However, even if I wasn’t, my investment strategy “sadly” wouldn’t change much. Oh well, yes we’re pretty boring in this respect. Oh well, hopefully the bull markets are back. Cheers!!!

  4. My portfolio is pretty bearish at this point. I think that my model has me at 15% bonds and 25% short the market and 60% cash as of the end of November. I have a very systematic approach though, and my thoughts don’t really enter into the equation of where my money goes.

      1. At the heart it is a relative strength model (those areas that have had the best recent performance are invested in) but I also have a market timing aspect and a core/satellite aspect. Basically I have a set of ETFs that are my investing universe, and the best sectors get the most weighting (Long term government bonds recently). There are core ETFs that I invest in at 5% of portfolio levels, and then I could add up to 10% more in related areas. (e.g. I could invest in foreign emerging markets EEM, and if the sector as a whole is doing well, then also invest in the highest performing related areas, maybe Korea and Turkey for a total of 15% in emerging markets). Obviously upderperforming areas don’t get invested in (e.g. Financials recently). I rebalance every month (but update and track weekly).

  5. Great article. Love your disciplined approach. It paid off! Nice week, but still a lot of danger out there. Didn’t sell in May so had to ride through the volatility. Feels like I broke even or down some because of regular contributions. Need to take some time to reassess. Nice job!

  6. I don’t have a punt fund anymore. When I did, I invested in retail stocks but never made any money. …I sure hope the bull market is back. I feel like the economy is doing ok though. Not bad, not great, just ok. Maybe that’s my emotions talking because my manager told me no layoffs this month but no bonuses either!

  7. I think the long-term still holds a lot of sideways moving as opposed to true “bear” or “bull” markets. There are sectors that will certainly see growth, but the Western world needs to slowly de-leverage debt at every level, and austerity measures will temper and high growth rates. I think the best-case scenario is that we see true growth in late 2013 or so. As a result of our refusal to regulate any of the ridiculous financial sector, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of volatility along the way (aka “The New Normal).

    1. Hard to argue with that. Maybe we trade in a +10/-10% channel, however, with the November unemployment data of 8.6% coming out today 12/2/11, it sure seems like the fundamentals are finally turning for the positive!

      1. Still a lot of people that stopped looking for work and that are underemployed that don’t factor into that stat, but you’re right, it’s nice to see some good news for a change!

        Plus, your multiple bets on Obama for Prez are really looking up!

  8. Sam, we seem to have a similar outlook, semi-bearish. My 401k is about 60% cash or cash equivalent, while even my speculative Scottrade account is about 40% cash.

    1. Cool. I’m actualy bullish, but have already hit my hurdle of 10%, +14.5% so I’m just 50/50 now. This environment is so unpredictable, I can’t warrant more than a 50/50 allocation.

  9. I am in an unusual situation because I will have Social Security and a pension as guaranteed income. My portfolio is set for growth with a mix of TIPS, dividend stocks/funds, healthcare, biotech, tech, and various other funds and stocks. Currently, my fixed portion is roughly 25% and growing. My target is 50% in the next 5 years. I expect to live in retirement about 25 years.

  10. It is definitely a positive that corporate governance has increased. Should be good for the long term as negative management discounts dissipate potentially and a bigger trust of the markets and companies ensues.

    Over/under on S&P +10% in 2012?

    1. Oh, I’m just asking, not betting. The o/u betting line is probably closer to 6%. I think if Ye markets can return another 10% this year, that’s solid.

      The only bet I’m taking is that I believe Obama will win in 2012! Get the ProV 1 Titleists!

  11. I would guess performance to be flat as well, since you would have bought in an up 10% market and a down 8% market. The absolute value may be up by the. Amount contributed.

    What’s your performance and absolute amount YoY increase?

  12. Haha, yeah right. Just luck and following my own internal guidelines to take emotion and over thinking out of the equation.

    Let’s hope things stick until year end and no more negative surprises!

  13. I am bullish about 2012 because it is an election year. If the early signs pan out, next year will be very bullish. Unemployment will be high, but that in itself does not have the same effect on the market. If jobs are created, it trumps the high unemployment. News from Europe seems to be better.
    My investment straegy is long term with investments in TIPS, biotech, healthcare, tech and divideend stocks.

    1. Krant, at 65, what is your equity/bonds/cash balance curious to know? I imagine myself being 65% cash and bonds then. Love to understand your allocation thought process.


  14. I sold some losers yesterday on the big gain day. You timed the market quite nicely Sam. I can’t do that so I stuck with about 80% equity throughout the year.
    My 401k didn’t do well at all this year. It is still down about 9% on the year due to all the foreign market fund in there. :(
    Our net worth is up about 10% from a year ago though. I guess I can’t complain too much. That’s including all the saving we did this year.

    1. Yeah, the foreign holdings this year have been such a killer compared to the relative stability of the US. They will probably snap back the most in a global rally.

      Congrats on your YoY net worth increase. I shoot for 10%+ on NW annual increase myself.

  15. I’ve been using much gentler adjustments. For me the time I spend on my business is still worth a lot more than tweaking a little more return out of my portfolio, and the 6th minute I spend on my investments in a year is probably a losing proposition already. It’s still fun to keep track and make adjustments though.

    At the start of the year I thought stocks were a bit above fair value so I had as much as 20% in bonds. But as the prospects for stocks improved with every drop I’m down to a little over 10% in bonds now. I’m shocked and disappointed to find that this morning the main portfolio shows the market value has almost risen back to the book value (which shows how much I’ve put in this year) from a nice discount a week ago. There’s still time for it to go down some more before the next chunk goes in on the 10th.

    I’ve never thought that selling in May was generally reliable, but your experience makes me wonder if it’s a trigger when stocks are overvalued already. Someone should do research on that :)

    I wrote a post recently analyzing the future expectations for the stock market. If you think the last 20 years were normal then they could rise quickly but if you watch the long-term history instead you can only expect average returns from here.

    1. When I wrote the article in April, it really just coincided with being up 11% after only 4 months. Everybody was, and I thought that to be unsustainable hence the rebalance. Coincidental timing I guess.

      How you doing this year with your strategy?

        1. I can’t impress people at parties with it yet :) Well I might if they actually knew how much they’ve been losing…

          But I’ll take a strong possibility of a high long-term return over the certainty of a moderate short-term return. Your approach is great too because you know what you need and don’t get greedy taking on more risk when you’ve already made enough. Very few people would ever have the discipline to execute that.

  16. Even as I see all the green in my portfolio, I’m not at all optimistic. Too many problems still lingering. I would use this as a time to “sell” – but at my age – I’ve never sold anything (I’m just buying less).

    1. The good thing about having a smaller portfolio is that you can easily catch up if you underperform with contributions. Also, if you blow yourself up, it’s not a lot of time and money invested either. You can afford to swing for the fences and miss! Time is on your side.

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