I walked across the football field in the dark. It was a shortcut to McDonalds. All I had to do was climb the schoolyard fence and drop deftly to the back of the parking lot. I lowered myself from the fence before plunging into the blackness of an open shed.
That’s when I learned where McDonalds put their deep fried grease. I landed in two giant buckets. I then lost my balance and crashed into a third.
Shortcuts rarely work for me. But they just might work for you. Have you ever heard of the stock market maxim, sell in May and go away? Everyone should try it. Buying and holding is the long way round. Selling in May is a shortcut that could easily grease returns.
Go ahead, laugh. You haven’t read the study. University of Miami professors Sandro Andrade, Vidhi Chhaochharia and Michael E. Fuerst
say it really works. In their 2012 study, they found that stocks don’t perform as well after May. Lower your exposure to stocks in May, they say. Pump them up in November.
How much stock exposure should you sell, and when should you buy it back? The financial experts on TV know the answer. Learn to watch their eyes. They tell the world in code.
Summer months, especially, are terrible for stocks. That’s why you should sell in May, go away, buy them back another day. Stocks take holidays that coincide with yours. There’s a reason for that. Big institutional traders swap the office for the beach in June, July and August. Just check the helicoptors scheduled for the Hampdens, or the private flights to Nantucket. Regular folk work for most of the year. Not these people. That’s why Wall Street traders aren’t as popular as those who work at the SPCA. Most Wall Street types take 3 months off each year.
There is no crowd on trading floors during the summer. And they don’t do much. They often clear the floor to play ball hockey or wiffle ball. Sometimes, somebody makes a massive trade. It’s usually for a goalie, not a stock.
The S&P 500 made gains during 66 of the 90 calendar years between 1926 and 2015. In other words, stocks went up 73 percent of the time.
How about those summer months? They were simply awful. To get the full picture, I checked out Ken Fisher’s 2012 book, The Only Three Questions That Still Count. To get data from 2012 to 2015, I used Morningstar.com. During the summer period (June to August) stocks gained just 62 times in 90 calendar years. That’s just 69 percent of the time. And a whopping 4 years out of 90 less. Talk about a sure thing.
The summer period averaged gains of about 4 percent over the past 90 years. On average, if you put $100 in the S&P 500, it would have grown to $104 between June and the end of August. Investors deserve more. This summer could be worse.
So, where do smart investors who sell in May park their money?. Vanguard’s Prime Money Market Fund has averaged a compound annual return of 0.06 percent over the past five years. That’s an average summer return of about 0.02 percent. Perhaps the academics had another place in mind.
Investors need to be ambitious. They need to juice returns in June, July and August. Only in September (or is it October, November or December?) should you dive back into stocks.
How can you get more from the 90 days of summer? Try a casino: they’re 24/7/365. You’ll never see anyone with a tan in a casino.
Then again, maybe you should really relax during the summer and ignore your investments, as long term investors do in the other nine months.