A Few Ways to Lose Money in The Stock Market

Bill Parrott |

The market loves to rip wealth from the hands of investors who panic as stocks fall. The Dow Jones fell about 7% from its high last week because the yield curve inverted for a few minutes.

Markets have been rising and falling for centuries. Since 1926 they’ve risen about 75% of the time. A quarter of the time they’re falling - hard. When stocks fall, investors panic.  

Stocks have risen 173% over the past ten years. A $10,000 investment in 2009 is now worth $27,260. However, during this great bull run, the Dow Jones has fallen several times. It fell more than 10% in 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018. In December it fell 25% from its high-water mark. Despite the drops, the market has always recovered. Investors who sold their stocks last December missed a 19% rebound in 2019.[1]

The graph below shows all the drops in the market for the past ten years. Despite these drops, the market has risen substantially since 2009.


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The chart below shows the gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1950, producing a gain of 17,790%. Since 1950 the U.S. economy has experienced 17 recessions.  


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As stocks gyrate, here are a few ways to lose money in the stock market.

  • Plan. You don’t have a plan on how to invest your assets. You trust your financial future to luck, hope, and chance, playing a guessing game as to which investments will do well.
  • Media. Your investment ideas come from cable television shows or social media sites. Remember, the commentators aren’t talking to you directly; they’re broadcasting their message to millions of viewers.
  • Homework. You don’t do any research or homework before you buy a stock. And, more importantly, you don’t have a sell strategy. To make money in stocks, you must have discipline when you buy and sell. Knowing your entry and exit points are paramount to make money when you invest.
  • Volatility. Investors mistake volatility for risk. If you do, you’re more likely to sell stocks when they’re down. The Dow Jones has a standard deviation of 1%, meaning a 1% drop in the Dow is about 260 points. When investors hear that the market is down 260 points, they panic. However, this move is typical and expected.
  • Time. Time matters when you invest in stocks. The market is efficient in the long-term, but not so much in the near term. If you need money in one year or less, don’t buy stocks. 
  • Timing. Trying to time the market is impossible. From 1990 – 2018, the S&P 500 returned 9.29%. If you missed the 25 best days, your return dropped to 4.18%.[2]
  • Diversification. A lack of diversification hurts investors in a downdraft. A well-diversified portfolio owns several investments that rise and fall at different times. If all your investments are moving in the same direction, you’re not diversified. For example, the Dow Jones has fallen 5% for the past month, but long-term bonds have risen 10%.

Over the next 100 years, the U.S. will experience several recessions, maybe even a depression. The market will rise substantially and fall dramatically. No one knows! It’s impossible to predict a recession since most of the economic data is trailing, so by the time it’s been identified, it’s probably half over.

I do understand that market drops are scary. However, holding and buying stocks through market troughs has proven to be a winning strategy. If you invested $10,000 in the Dow Jones on October 1, 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession, your balance would be worth $18,340 today. At the market low, your balance dropped to $6,547. If you sold, you locked in a loss of $3,453. If you held on, you made $8,340.

What I do know is that investors who follow their plan, save money, diversify their assets, invest for the long-term usually win in the end.

Stay the course, my friends.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4


August 23, 2019

Bill Parrott, CFP®, CKA® is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren’t suitable for every investor.








[1] YCharts. Website Accessed August 23, 2019

[2] Dimensional Fund Advisors, Investment Principles