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2023 Year End Reflection

December 01, 2023

As the year comes to a close, I reflect on the conversations I have had with people about their money during 2023.  When you talk with over 300 people about the same subject, trends start to emerge.   You see, in my line of work the conversations are a reflection of what concerns people.  While I have an agenda, and I try my best to stick to it, enviably I get off track and down the rabbit hole of the “real” conversation.   Sometimes it is about what concerns them.  Sometimes it is about what concerns me.  And the two typically are not the same.  What is concerning most people in the year 2023 was inflation and the rapidly rising costs of everyday goods and services.  What is concerning me in the year 2023 was a flat stock market.

Last year at this time, my year end ramblings centered around the concept of risk in the capital markets and how many investors were feeling risk for the first time.  2022 was ending on a low note and the bear market was fully upon us.  Not too long after that, the markets began to right themselves and it looks like we will end this year in positive territory.  But not positive enough for a lot of people as we still are not back to our market highs from November 2021.  While the bleeding may have stopped in equity portfolios, the healing has not been as swift.  In fact, it’s been painfully slow and a phenomenon I call a flat market.  

The last time I felt this was during the financial crisis where it took portfolio six years to get back to the 2007 highs.  I don’t reference this flat market often because interest rates were still going down and most people didn’t give one thought to inflation.  (I remember doing financial plans at 4% inflation and having to defend such a high number)  The flat market that concerns me was in the 1970’s when interest rates (and inflation) were in the double digits, so it was like pouring salt on an open financial wound:  no organic portfolio growth coupled with high inflation.  Sound familiar?  Welcome to 2023.  This was the year I have feared.  This was the year I warned people about  This was the year I prepared portfolios for.  If investors learned the word risk last year, they are learning the word patience this year.

Time is often our greatest tool when it comes to winning with money, but what happens when that tool is broken?  Flat markets are painful because you see the evolution of time without the forward progress of a higher account balance.

Volatility in the markets is anticipated and can make your stomach turn during a market crash.  Luckly, those crashes tend to be short lived.  Losses suffered are erased and portfolios are back to where they started and marching higher.  The thing about flat markets is that the fear associated with the “crash” is not there  but replaced with the annoyance of a portfolio balance not growing anymore.  I see it.  I feel it.  But I also am at peace with it because I have patience.  I have the muscle memory of monitoring portfolios between 2007-2013 and have studied the lost decade of the 1970’s to have a bit of a heads up.  I am not naive enough to think I can avoid losses in portfolios, but I am confident that the asset allocation strategies I develop can survive all markets…even flat ones…long term.

If I have learned anything in the last 29 years as a financial planner, it is patience.   According to ChatGPT, patience is the ability to continue doing something despite difficulties or suffer without complaining or becoming annoyed.   I am constantly thinking long-term in my portfolios and recognize two years of a flat market is a blip when planning for retirement outcomes that are 40-60 years away!   Patience can also look like continuing to add to your retirement accounts, even when that deposit is the only way the account grows.  Patience is a choice.  Instead of complaining, look for opportunities that could set you up to capitalize on the next bull market.  Lower internal fees.  Learn about tax-loss harvesting.  Use this time in the “waiting room” of the next bull market productively, don’t keep doom scrolling….. searching for the next get-rich-quick idea.  Patience can often pay off when you least expect it.  Ask ChatGPT about market timing and how many times the S&P 500 Index had grown by more than 7% in one day.  Patience is what keeps you in the market so you can use those days to help your portfolio recover….and not become one of “those” investors that pulled out of the market never to recover.

As I now look to the future, I wonder what word will sum up next year as an investor in the markets?  I’m voting for growth, but I’ll settle for perseverance.   I do have patience, after all.





Enders Wealth Management

37800 Van Dyke Ave, Suite 125

Sterling Heights MI 48312





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