“If you were smart enough to invest $1,000 in the stock market in 1926…you’d probably be dead by now.”

The headline reminds us that in the real world, investment horizons are typically much, much shorter than 85-plus years.

The practical implication of this is that long term trends may not apply to actual situations.  Considering the brevity of human life along with the fact the stock market occasionally goes a decade or longer with minimal to zero growth, it is important to recognize that in real life people have financial needs that sometimes cannot be met by very long term trends.

Foundations and endowments have very long time horizons and can take advantage of long term trends by investing in things that are illiquid such as real estate, timber or venture capital funds.  But people approaching or in retirement need portfolios that can be used to meet unexpected expenses, protect against excessive losses and generate an acceptable rate of return over the lifespan of their owners.

 When dealing with real people, the goal is to create portfolios that will generate returns that meet each individual’s needs, but will not be subject to risks that may destroy it.

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