David Kalayjian has lost a million dollars in the stock market. Twice. And now he can smile about it.
The retired orthopedic surgeon from Middletown, Conn., and his wife saw much of their investments vanish in the early 2000s tech bust, and then again during the 2007 housing market crash and ensuing recession. Dr. Kalayjian isn't easily spooked, though. He pulled out of the market during the last downturn – fortuitously just before it plunged 500 points in one day – but was only on the sidelines for a few months. Then, with gentle encouragement from his financial adviser, he tiptoed back in when the market was near the bottom.
In the five-plus years since, Kalayjian has made back all of the money he lost and averaged an annualized growth in his portfolio of 10 to 11 percent. His current net worth stands at about $6 million. "It's been a good run," he says.
Judy Collins has been less fortunate. A public defender in Miami, she hasn't been able to amass any savings and couldn't take advantage of the current run-up in the stock market. Besides, she watched two of her sisters lose more than $1 million in the market crash six years ago and finds all the talk about price-earnings ratios and Fibonacci lines bewildering.
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"It's too risky for me to handle my own investments," she says. "I know nothing about investing."
Kalayjian and Ms. Collins represent two different sides of the great bull run on Wall Street – ones that hold important implications for the finances and sociology of the nation.
As the stock market rise enters its sixth year – now becoming one of the longest bull markets in US history – it is benefiting Americans unevenly. Coming as the rest of the economy has stagnated, the boom has bolstered the fortunes of wealthy investors like Kalayjian while many other people, like Collins, have garnered no rewards at all.
To a large extent, this is the way it has always been on Wall Street. The rich, because they have money and access to savvy financial managers, can use the stock market as their own personal bank vault more than other people. But this time around, the disparities have been more pronounced. That's because many Americans either sat out the latest boom, invested in it too late, or, as is the case of many Millennials, seem wary of Wall Street altogether.