A year ago, the most painful move was the most profitable. It hurt in March 2020 to exercise time-tested prudence by using history's steepest selloff, in a fog of pandemic uncertainty, to add exposure to stocks.
With the S&P 500 rushing to an unprecedented 34% drop in five weeks as bond prices surged, the market was serving up an urgent yet hard-to-accept invitation to shift money from bonds into stocks.
This column the week the S&P 500 bottomed noted it was a rare moment, one of only a few times the traditional balanced stock-bond portfolio had dropped 20% from a high. And history showed at the time that adding equities in such moments had always proved a good bet, averaging better than a 20% return for the standard 60% stocks/40% bonds portfolio.
Since then, this 60/40 mix, as reflected in the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund, has delivered a total return of more than 40%, about quadruple its long-term annual average.