Chasing Markets

Jeff RauppJeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Back when I was in the U.S. Army, one thing I dreaded was the two-mile run as part of the Physical Fitness (PT) Test. I am not a runner. While most people would scoff at the notion of a two-mile run being intimidating, I looked at it as 13-14 minutes of pain. It was timed, and the better finishing times naturally resulted in a better score. Seemingly anything above 15 minutes resulted in a fail and, of course, more running.

One of the things I had the most trouble with was finding the right pace. I’d have instances where I’d try to run a balanced race only to end up having to sprint the last few hundred yards to reach my desired time. Then there were the times where I’d go out too hard and find myself stumbling into the finish line. The hills on the courses would complicate things – I’d kill myself trying to keep a constant pace uphill and downhill.

shutterstock_175699433After struggling with this for months, I came up with a better solution. We always ran as a group, and I found that I could usually find a few people that would consistently run around the same time I was looking for. Then my objective would be to keep up with them knowing that as long as I finished somewhere in their vicinity, I’d hit my goal.

The other day someone asked me whether investors’ financial goals should be to try to outperform the market, and with my response I thought there were a lot of similarities to my past running strategy.

An investor starts with an objective they’d like to get to, how much money they have, expected cash flows and their time horizon. From there it’s a matter of finding the right mix of asset classes that historically has shown a high probability of achieving the returns necessary to reach the objective(s). That mix can be thought of as your strategic plan.

Along the way, the market is a useful reference point. Investing isn’t a smooth journey, so when your strategy has drawdowns or grows faster than you expected, knowing how markets performed helps you determine if that’s just market volatility or if something may be wrong with your plan. Changing your strategic plan along the way can be dangerous, particularly at market extremes. If you’re always chasing the runner that looks the strongest at the moment, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out before the finish.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.