Let me suggest that investing on the eve of the global financial crisis fits the mould. Imagine investing at the end of August 2008 – little more than two weeks before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. For most investors, initital trepidation, if any, would surely have turned to terror.
And then things only got worse.
In Norway, the nadir came as early as 21 November. On that day, the market had fallen some 64 per cent from its all-time high – and 56 per cent from the end of August, i.e. in less than three months. A fine example of real stock market risk, as opposed to statistical risk metrics.
It doesn't get much worse, does it?
And yet: If indeed you had invested in the Norwegian stock market and stayed the course for ten years, you would have doubled your money. Your annualised return would have been 7.5 per cent, despite the horrible timing. As bad luck goes, I'd say that's not bad.
I might add that many of our clients would have done considerably better, but of course this is no place for gloating.
If instead you had chosen the global stock market, as represented by the MSCI World Index, you would in fact have tripled your money and then some, provided you tallied your gains in Norwegian kroner. Average compound return would amount to a decent 11.9 per cent.
Again, I might add that many of our clients would have done a whole lot better, but I better not, lest I offend irascible clients who jumped ship at the very wrong moment.
I do suspect, you see, that if they did, they never got back on board in time – if ever.
That, too, as evidenced by the forgone return, is risk. For a sufficiently long-term investor, it may very well be the biggest risk of all.