2015 Stock Market Returns Weren’t Weak For Everyone


My lunch bill got stranger by the day.

Every year, I come to the same Malaysian paradise. Time magazine once rated it one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world.

In 2015, it was better than ever because it just kept getting cheaper. The fresh curried fish, pizza, fruit smoothie and coconut that I had for lunch cost just $7.

That’s when I pulled out my laptop. I checked the U.S. dollar against global currencies. The greenback was a rocket beside a bunch of balloons.

Last year, it gained more than 21 percent over Malaysia’s ringgit. Over the past 36 months, it gained 43 percent. (U.S. Dollar Rises Against Malaysian Ringgit 2013-2016. Source: OANDA Historical exchange rates)

I pushed my coconut aside and started to write, Think Like Warren Buffett While Vacationing Abroad. For American travelers, the world was on sale.

But there was a benefit for those whose currencies took a whooping. Perhaps they couldn’t enjoy a cheap trip to Disneyland. But if they bought U.S. stocks they hitched a ride on the dollar.

With U.S. exposure, they fared quite well.

American investors can’t say the same. Vanguard’s S&P 500 Index Fund mostly climbed from January to July.

But it fell hard in August. By year-end it had gained a paltry 1.24 percent.



worlds best value financial advisor

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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6 Responses

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  2. Dejan says:

    Hi Andrew! I am currently based in Singapore (European expat) about to start with my retirement portfolio based on your suggestions in the book for Expats. However in current market conditions it seems better solution to keep the cash or investing in gold for a while till the markets stabilize. What is your view on this?

    • Hi Dejan,

      Stock markets don’t stabilize. This has never been in their nature. And it never will be. This is one of the things that makes investing so difficult. In my book, I wrote about the returns that the markets have made compared to the returns of the average investor. There has been a huge gap. Fees made up only a small part of the difference. The biggest lag occurred because humans can’t help speculating. So no, do not speculate. Over time, this kind of behaviour will hurt your profits a lot. Stick to a diversified portfolio. Rebalance it once a year. If you feel the need to speculate, hire someone to build a diversified portfolio for you. They will (if you hire one of the top advisors in my book) rebalance it mechanically for you, likely once a year, without speculating on when a market will “stabilize.”


      • Jen says:

        Hi Andrew-reading all comments related to the stock market ups and downs avidly. I read the article in the business student who (logically) wants and would benefit from a nice, long,good crash!, hooray for the 20 somethings! But what abt us 40somethings! You know how your book advises to do bonds and equities related to risk and roughly age-well did that, but all I did over2015 is down -in fact my all world bonds have consistently over one year showed – . So for me neither the stocks nor bonds made me anything and my portfolio sits woefully below what I put in (yes I understand this, time in the market is needed-I just thought bonds would hold up my portfolio when the equities were down and vice versa). So now am thinking-much as I’d, love to put more in-I need to just let it all stay invested and use all my other ones to buy a property and keep the rest in the bank(at it,s measly interest rate). When one is 47 perhaps I don’t have the luxury of the 20yr old-buy low and wait til everything is up in a few yrs-because what if this “few yrs” turns out to be a decade? Can a stock market stay that low for that long?

        • Jen,

          Your question epitomizes why most people underperform the market by huge amounts. You are nowhere near the typical retirement age. Stocks are now on sale. If you are lucky, the markets will drop further and say down for 5 years or more. But based on what you are saying, you no longer want to buy what’s on sale.

          First of all, this feeling is human. But as I mentioned in my books, it’s counterproductive. It’s how most investors feel. And they allow their feelings to sabotage their long term results. This is why the U.S. market (for example) has averaged about 9% per year over the past 20 years, while the average American stock market investor has averaged about 3.5%. Investment behavior. When markets have good stretches, people feel comfortable adding money. When they have bad stretches, people are afraid to keep adding, so they stop adding, they sell, or they add less.

          This is a guaranteed recipe for poor results. Stay the course, if you want to do well. We are roughly the same age. I would love to see my investments fall by 50% and stay there for a few years. You should love that too.


          • Jen says:

            Tx Andrew-I love the answer because my whole life I never worried about stock market crashes and suddenly now I do. I must put into this sale the same amt of energy and passion I do when Karen Millen and M&s have their final reductions sale!

          • Good work Jen. That’s exactly what you need to do.


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