Expert Advice

Lessons From The 2008 Stock Market Crash

Investment Committee member Charley Ellis talks about the hard-earned knowledge gained via the 2008 stock market crash.

Charley Ellis: People looking at the experience they had in 2008, some people learned the dreadful wrong lesson. They got scared deeply and took action. What happened to them is that they then not only sold at a low price, but they never came back into the market. And they missed a very strong response upward that came on after that.

So for those who learned the wrong lesson, either because they put themselves at too much risk or they didn’t understand the way markets behave or they didn’t have the staying power … whatever happened emotionally … they converted a short-term or medium-term loss into a permanent loss. And that’s a dreadful reality. Those people will never get that money back again.

You ask did it change any long-term views, any fundamental beliefs? Honestly, no. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely not. Was I deeply upset? Yes. Did I have serious conversations with my wife? Yes. Did I wonder whether I was doing the right thing? Yes. Did I hang in there? Fortunately, yes.

Horrible things do happen. That’s what markets are all about. If you look back over time, every 30 or 40 years horrible things come along and happen. And what does it take to get to a horrible thing? The absence of horrible things long enough for people to decide maybe this time it’s different. Maybe it’s not going to happen. And sure enough, shortly after everybody’s feeling pretty good, it comes zooming through again because we do it ourselves.