I always enjoy looking back at how the experts said the market was going to do, and compare that to how the market actually did. Looking back shows me that when it comes to investing, my guess is as good as anyone else's.
We now know that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will close out the year at 10,717.50, ending the year down 0.6%. It is the first down year for the Dow since 2002.
Here were some of the guesses made by Fox News' "experts" on Dec. 30, 2004:
Rob Stein, Astor Asset Management, wins the My Mountain Best Guesser Award, for saying that the market will end, "Slightly lower than were it is here (at years end 2004)."
Jordan Netburn, Axiom Capital Management:
Tom Adkins, Commonconservative.com:
"I thought I was going to be the crazy man here saying 13 or 14, but I feel the same way." (The Dow at 13,000 or 14,000.)
Brenda Buttner, Fox News Business Reporter:
"With any significant tail winds, which we will get, the market is bound to go up at least 10% this year."
Why is Brenda Buttner, a reporter, giving advice on how the market will perform? Shouldn't she be reporting someone else's guesses? She is a reporter after all. It's proves out that some reporters don't know as much as they would have you believe.
And here is (or was) another pundit site, maintained by Business Week. Feel free to browse it yourself. It has proven to me once and for all that if 66 pundits make a guess, that maybe one of them will get it right.
And now the slate will be wiped clean as the market enters 2006. All guesses will be good again. Everyone has another shot at being next year's My Mountain "Best Guesser."
My own guess: the DJIA will close 2006 at 11,208. I predict that some unexpected good news will propel the market forward in the final quarter, after a tremendous amount of uncertainty and volitility during the middle of the year.
Enter your guess in the comment field and we'll compare results next year. Same bat time. Same bat channel.
I know that I'm dumping on the pundits here. While its true that their guesses on the direction of the market are as good as yours and mine, it is absolutely a good idea to use these people to educate yourself. But before you rush out and buy any more Suzy Orman tapes, consider that these people are giving advice to potentially millions of people, all at once, without considering each person as an individual. Suzy Orman is a good educator, but she's never sat in your house and asked you what's important to you, has she?
My service to you today is to remind you that you are an invididual. Do not be a lemming, ready to jump off a financial cliff just because you heard Crazy Cramer ranting on MSNBC. If you believe you need financial advice, then I suggest you take that need seriously. Before playing "Suzy Says" with your financial future, find someone locally who can help. Sure you'll pay a little for the service. Afterall, you pay your doctor to keep you healthy, so why not an advisor to keep you financially healthy? The process is simple: a) speak to your friends to get a short list of trusted financial advisors, and b) interview those advisors, and c) select the one that takes the time to "discover" what is truly important to you. Whether its leaving an inheritance, protecting your spouse, planning for retirement, buying a home, saving for college, leaving a donation for your church, protecting assets from Medicaid, starting a business, choosing between permanent or term insurance, buying long term care insurance or a drug coverage supplement, health insurance, simplifying finances, mitigating risk, long term investing, buying a car-- whatever the hell it is, if its important enough for you to worry about, then its important enough to seek some professional guidance.
Have a happy and prosperous New Year!