A few days before President Trump’s latest govern-by-tweets were posted, I was ecstatic. The substantial losses I’d seen in my 401(k) in the last quarter of 2018 were all erased. My retirement account had recovered, and then some.
Retirement accounts like mine took a hit after two separate tweets by Trump on his trade war with China.
Trump’s threat of more tariffs on Chinese imports could mean some rough days ahead for the stock market.
“The belligerent tone from the White House caught many investors by surprise after having anticipated a tidy pact to the protracted talks coming to fruition soon,” Sue Chang and Chris Matthews wrote for MarketWatch.
A Bloomberg News headline was pretty sobering: Each Word of Trump’s Tariff Tweets Wiped $13 Billion Off Stocks.
Hitting back, China said it was prepared to raise tariffs on American products, The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield reported.
Whether you agree with Trump’s tactics to deal with the trade imbalance with China, one thing is clear: Investors and consumers caught in the middle are losing money.
Just look at the price of washing machines.
“All told, the research shows, U.S. consumers are spending an additional $1.5 billion a year on washers and dryers as a result of the tariffs,” The Post’s Christopher Ingraham reported.
Investors responded quickly to trade tensions between China and the United States. The Dow Jones industrial average on Tuesday dropped 473 points, or about 1.8 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 retreated 1.65 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite fell by nearly 2 percent.
“The three major U.S. indexes had been near all-time highs just last Friday, with the Dow up 12 percent for the year, the S&P 500 up more than 15 percent, and the Nasdaq ahead 20 percent,” The Post’s Thomas Heath reported.
Earlier Wednesday, it looked as if the markets would rebound on news that Chinese officials were headed to Washington to try to negotiate a deal. But that optimism wouldn’t last.
By market close, the Dow was up, but only slightly — less than 0.1 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq continued a downward trend.
Events this week are a good reminder that you probably shouldn’t watch your investments too closely. What’s down one day can be up the next. Or back down again, and so on.
If you’re investing for the long term, don’t make hasty decisions based on the market’s daily fluctuations.
I asked Carolyn McClanahan, a physician-turned-certified financial planner who founded the fee-only Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., the following: With the markets going crazy this week, what advice do you have for people saving for retirement? Should investors be concerned?
“People always ask this question when the market is crazy bad,” McClanahan said. “People should have an ‘investment policy’ that lays out what percent they own in risky stock funds and conservative bonds. The closer they are to needing their money, the less they should have in stocks. During bad and good markets, they should stick with those percentages. If the current market is making them jittery and they don’t have an investment policy statement, they should use this as a wake up call to create one.”
Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at online financial adviser Betterment, says its understandable if you’re worried about recent drops in stock prices.
“While there is a tendency to react to those changes, it is a good time to step back and ask a few questions,” Bronnenkant said.
Ask yourself: What are my goals? What risk level am I comfortable with?
“Assuming those things haven’t changed, it may be wise to stay the course and ignore the fluctuations,” he said. “If your goals or risk level has changed, it may be appropriate to reevaluate your portfolio allocation. While I cannot predict the future, history has rewarded those people who maintained a long-term focus in the face of market volatility.”
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Last week was rough for JPMorgan Chase, which was criticized for a tweet that encouraged customers to examine their spending.
Lots of folks on Twitter thought the tweet was insensitive.
Last week I asked you: Do you think JPMorgan Chase deserved to be criticized?
“I absolutely think JPMorgan Chase deserved to be criticized,” wrote Chanapa Tantibanchachai of Baltimore. “Their tweet was tone-deaf and ignores the reality for many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. This kind of fiscal responsibility ethos always insists that if Americans just took small steps, they’d be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. However, it doesn’t recognize the fact that the problem isn’t that the poor aren’t saving the $20 in their checking account. The problem is that saving that $20 will never amount to anything when the system sets you up to fail. I used to be poor myself. Growing up, my family survived off my dad’s minimum wage casino-card-dealer income. We lived in constant fear, as many low-income families do, with the knowledge that one minor car problem could set off a chain of events that would lead to unemployment and homelessness. There’s no doubt that personal fiscal responsibility plays a role in uplifting the impoverished, but it’s not enough, and society needs to support programs that can help end the cruel cycle of poverty instead of blaming the poor.”
Charles Bludworth of Friendswood, Tex., wrote, “When I graduated from college 40 years ago with an engineering degree, I ate sack lunches most days, not because I couldn’t eat out, but because I was saving for a future. It wasn’t until I retired with more money than I need that I started buying $4 tea or coffee on morning outings with friends. I don’t regret my frugality and wear it as a badge of honor. I see many others with lower earnings not being frugal, not realizing the potential to save if they would just start being content with $1 coffee (or make it at home) instead of chasing an elusive dream. I applaud chase.”
“It’s not that the advice was bad, or wrong,” wrote Deborah Knowles of Gaithersburg, Md. “It’s the sheer tone deafness considering the source. Also, there’s the point that JPMorgan Chase received an enormous bailout.”
Margaret Siemers of Dillsburg, Pa., wrote, “I have worked for both a bank and a credit union, so I can truthfully say Chase deserved to be taken down a peg. [Many banks] will look for ways to make you pay a fee. A credit union will look for ways to help you save your money. For example, [often] when a bank runs its daily debits and credits on your account, they will take out all the debits first and credit money and refunds after. They do this because it generates fees. Most credit unions will credit all incoming deposits and credits before they run the debits. I urge anyone struggling with bank fees to check out your local credit union.”
Nakia of Buffalo wrote, “I see people all the time who aren’t willing to sacrifice for the end goal. I buy 90 percent of my son’s clothes from consignment shops.”
John Lombard of Queens, N.Y., wrote, “Does JPMorgan Chase deserve to be criticized? That’s actually more complicated than it seems. You’re 100 percent right that, if you’re just looking at the advice on the face of it, then no, they don’t. It’s fundamentally sound advice. It’s not always easy to determine tone from a tweet or text the same way you can in a face-to-face conversation, but I don’t think you can argue that it came across as anything other than mildly condescending at best. On a personal level, I see people every day spending money I know they shouldn’t be spending. This isn’t meant to sound self-righteous, but it’s always easier to blame other people rather than be introspective and look at your own habits. I am going to be hugely in the minority here, but let’s also remember it’s not even in Chase’s best interest for consumers to be educated. Educated customers not only don’t make the bank any money, they cost the bank money in terms of lavish credit card reward redemptions and other perks that come at everyone else’s expense. Chase deserves to be criticized for their tone and their delivery, but not for the message itself. I get that the vast majority of people either can’t or won’t separate the two, but again, given the current climate, it’s not surprising.
“No, I don’t think Chase deserves criticism for trying to encourage frugality,” wrote PK Rutter of Tucson. “But maybe their too cute message was not the best way to do it. And I cannot fault them for charging overdraft fees. If they didn’t, think of how many people would take advantage of that. Why should Chase be left holding the bag for someone’s overspending?”
“The message Chase sent was right on the mark,” wrote Allen Palmer of Morgan Hill, Calif. “Most people don’t realize how much all those ‘little extras’ add up to. Yes, people do need to be told the hard truths about spending versus saving.”
Thomas Druitt of Paducah, Ky., a regular reader and commenter wrote, “I think you had it right. Chase was both right and wrong. They were right to point out that a great deal of our own financial distress is self-inflicted and a direct result of unwise (not to say completely irrational) spending decisions that we make by ourselves, for ourselves and at the urging of no one but ourselves. They were wrong, or at least completely tone deaf, in not recognizing that no one, and I really mean no one, cares to be told to mend their financial ways by a huge global commercial bank.”
Keith Sado of Falls Church, Va., wrote, “Yes, they deserve criticism, despite the validity of the issues they raise in their Twitter conversation. Advice on frugality is best coming from trusted and identifiable sources — family/spouse, mentors, and financial writers. A financial institution’s twitter account is not the ideal messenger! What’s next? Tinder’s corporate account tweeting Monday motivation that highlights the bad choices people make in their dating lives?”
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