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  • Writer's picturePhysicians Financial Design

Navigating a Bear Market

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

The Power of Pain

Few know more about pain and suffering than you. As a profession, you've chosen to surround yourself with pain and sickness in order to help those in need of healing. You know that there is power in pain. Pain can cause people to act irrationally or make regrettable decisions. Unfortunately, this holds true in finances and investing as well. The anxiety of suffering investment losses almost always is more powerful than the thrill of making gains in your portfolio. I suppose the rationale can be applied to many areas of our lives. Imagine how your patients react when you deliver bad news versus how they may react when they receive good news. Under which pretense would you expect them to act more irrationally? The reality is that our emotional response to things that make us feel pain is stronger than our emotions that illicit joy. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to their own emotions when it comes to investing. Multiple studies have shown that most people get out of the market at the wrong time and, likewise, enter back into the market at the wrong time causing more harm than if they would have just stayed the course. These rapid market sell offs can cause precipitous drops in many portfolios. And as an investor experiencing one of these sharp declines, it may feel like too much to bear (pun intended!) while trying to weather the storm. From a long-term perspective, however, these sell offs are generally short periods and they always reverse back into an upward trajectory eventually. On the flip side, the periods of market growth are usually more of a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of scenario. Take a look at the chart of the S&P 500 Index over the last 5 years. Notice how the downturns are generally precipitous, while the up turns are more gradual.

Source: Google Finance

I believe this is mostly a result of the human emotional response to negative stimuli and fear of further negative stimuli (speculation) than it is data-driven investing. In general, fear outweighs optimism as a motivating factor. My guess is you’ve experienced the same phenomena in your practice. What is more likely to motivate your overweight patient with bad eating habits to lose weight – telling him how great he’ll feel if he starts to eat better and exercise or telling him that he is going to die if he doesn’t?

At Physician’s Financial Design, we use formulaic strategies to help eliminate emotion from our investing and planning strategies. We base our investment decisions on raw, hard data, not on our gut feelings. This usually produces better results and, more importantly, can eliminate a good deal of anxiety knowing that we executing a strategy based on a proven formula and not just playing a guessing game. Imagine telling a patient that you are just making a guess about their diagnosis rather than using the information at hand and following a best practices protocol!

Long-Term Market Statistics

Over the last 50 years, the S&P 500 (a major index used to gauge stock market performance) has experienced a loss in roughly 1 out of every 4 years (Source: This shows quite a bit of volatility, even on a year-to-year basis. However, as you lengthen out your time horizon to look at longer periods of time, the volatility seems to diminish. One statistic that highlights this point is that since 1941, in 80 overlapping 5-year periods, there are only 8 of these 5-year periods that have experienced a loss – or about 1 out of every 10 (Source: The point is this; the longer you stay invested in the market, the better chance you have of making positive returns on your investment. Over time, the gains have historically been able to significantly overcome any losses suffered along the way…as long as the time horizon is adequate, and the investor stays the course.

A great example of this would be the 10-year period from 2005 to 2014. When reviewed on a year-to-year basis, you’d notice that the stock market experienced one of it’s worst years ever in 2008. In fact, if you expand that by a few months and look from November 2007 through February 2009, you’d see about a 50% loss in the value of the S&P 500 Index. Talk about a scary time to be investing! But even with such a horrid stretch, the 5-year period from 2005-2009 only saw a total of an 8% loss. However, the following 5-year period (from 2010-2014) saw compounded market gains of about 85%! To put this in perspective, if you would have invested $100,000 in a fund that tracks the S&P 500 at the beginning of 2005, you would have had around $170,000 in your account by the end of 2014 – even with one of the worst sell offs in the history of the stock market! And keep in mind, this could have been done without any professional advice. Now, imagine if a formulaic strategy (as mentioned above) would have been used that could have mitigated some of those losses and boosted overall rates of return!

The Importance of Your Time Horizon

With all that said, even a formulaic, tactical approach to investing can’t eliminate all losses. The best investors in the world know that even they will experience losses in their accounts at times. Therefore, it’s best to understand your investment objectives and time horizons before making any investment decisions. If you plan to retire in 20 years, but your time horizon for sending your oldest child to college is only 5 years away, you likely will need different strategies to achieve each of these aspirations. A fiduciary financial planner will look at all aspects surrounding your financial picture and help you formulate a plan that best fits your scenario. This strategy should aim to provide the most efficient and effective way of accomplishing your objectives. If you don’t currently have a fiduciary advisor, CLICK HERE to connect with Physicians Financial Design and receive your free financial evaluation. It’s never too early to start the conversation. Sadly, one of the regrets I’ve heard too often from my clients is that they wish they had found an advisor years ago and avoided some costly mistakes along the way.

So, if you have questions about your 401(k), 403(b), or other investments, insurance, debt, or are wondering about the best way to navigate these turbulent times, please reach out and let me see if I can get you pointed in the right direction. You can CLICK HERE to schedule a call, or simply email me at

Thanks for reading! For more articles geared toward young physicians and their money, click here or check out The Money Malpractice Podcast on any of the major platforms.



• RichMark Private Wealth Management. LLC is registered as an investment adviser with the State of Michigan, and only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, or is excluded or exempted from such requirements.

• Content should not be viewed at personalized investment advice. Market events and other factors may affect the reliability of the potential outcomes. Simulated growth is purely hypothetical and does not represent actual performance.

• Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment or strategy will be suitable or profitable for a client's portfolio.

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