Some people may feel that investing in equity markets is dangerous. This is true when you do it for the short term and focus on a single country market. However, if you have a globally diversified portfolio and are able to invest for the long term, you will be able to enhance your returns with a low level of risk.
Here’s a simple question – Do you think the world’s economy will be larger 20 years from now than it is today? More likely than not, the answer is yes. The world’s population will be larger in 20 years, which will lead to more people using/wanting goods and services provided by companies. With an increase in overall demand, companies will be producing more and generating more profits. With greater profits, stock prices and stock markets will rise. The MSCI World stock market index shown below reflects how our economy grows with time.
Population growth is not the only driver. Human beings are also always demanding a better standard of living. For example in Singapore, we “upgrade” from a HDB flat to a condominium; we drive a small car and “upgrade” to a larger one. As markets like China, Thailand and even Vietnam open up and grow economically, their people will have higher incomes. They will start with demanding basic consumer goods and as their incomes grow, they will want to buy more and better products.
You may ask – If I put all my money in Thailand today, can I expect a definite profit in 20 years’ time? That is harder to predict although there are many good reasons to believe that Thailand will continue to grow. Many countries have faced extended periods of decline before (e.g. Japan in the 1990s). This is why you need to have a well-diversified portfolio across different regions and countries around the globe.
Our annual inflation rates in Singapore for the past 3 years have been fluctuating from 1.5% to 5.4%. This is precisely why it is risky to leave your money in “safer” instruments such as fixed deposits (often yields below 2% annually), because it might be worth less than the amount you would have to pay for your daily needs over time.
Everyone should know the difference between gambling and investing. A trip to casino can be fun but approach stock market in the same way and you will find yourself in trouble. Like a turbulent flight, volatility is uncomfortable and it is easy for anyone to bail out at the first wobble. However, if you are currently in your 20s or 30s, youth is the single huge advantage for you to ride out the ups and downs in the long term. Successful investing requires one to embrace volatility, not fear it.
But if you keep your money in fixed deposits or other “safe” instruments, you do not know if the returns will keep pace with inflation over the long term and that will be a real danger.