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What Not to Do When the Market Surges

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Don't let market swings knock you from your investing plan.

Worried about high stock prices and elevated valuations? You're not alone. 

In this video clip from "The 5," recorded on Nov. 9, Fool.com contributors Trevor Jennewine, Zane Fracek, and Demitri Kalogeropoulos discuss the recent stock market surge, and why it's important not to change your investing strategy and try to time the market simply because stocks have jumped.

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Trevor Jennewine: Despite falling today, the S&P 500 still sits within a percentage point or two of its all-time high. Even more impressive, the index is actually up 33% over the past year, 33 percent in one year that crushes its historical returns, which typically range between eight and 10 percent on an annualized basis. That may have some investors feeling uneasy. I've got two questions for you guys. First, given that out performance, are you making any changes to your investment strategy at all? Let's start with you, Zane.

Zane Fracek: I'm not making any changes. I can't say I am really keeping it at about the same and that's because I was mostly fully allocated before. If anything maybe I've taken actually some of the cash that I did have and put that to work to hedge against inflation, but I also think I concentrated on what I already had and that was really it. I wasn't really shopping around too much.

Demitri Kalogeropoulos: I'll second that too. I agree with Zane, I don't tend to make a lot of changes to my strategy based on what the stock market is doing. I try to consistently put new money into the market every couple of weeks, twice a month if I can, and my favorite vehicle for that is index funds. Particularly I don't have a particularly great single-stock I want to buy, but so most of my money goes into those widely diversified index funds and I like those because, you get all that diversity in one purchase and they're very low cost. One I would just highlight as one of my favorite is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund and that's VTI, and the expense ratio on that is 0.05 so basically nothing.

But that said, the valuations like you said, are definitely high, the stock market is up. I think it is 24% so far this year, and that's after 16% increase last year. Those are both unusually high. I understand that. It's just a reminder to me that I shouldn't be putting any money into the market that I'm going to need in the next year or two.

This is a long-term stuff, but no changes there, all of long-term savings are still going into the stock market at the same pace.

Jennewine: I tend to side with both of you. I think you guys made some great points there. I'm going to throw a visual up real quick. JP Morgan did a study that ended last year in 2020, and they went back to 1988 and they looked at what the returns were over one, three, and five year periods, based on whether you invested on any random day or whether you invested when the market was at all time highs.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, over all three periods, the one-year, three-year, and five-year periods, you actually outperformed if you invested when the market was at an all time high. It's pretty close on all three different scenarios but I thought, that's interesting, and I think it's a good reminder that nobody really knows the future and so once you start trying to time the market, the market is pretty richly valued right now, you start getting into trouble.

Trevor Jennewine has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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