Is September the Worst Month for Investing?

September 12, 2019

Fall is here. Ok, it’s not actually official until September 22. However, the unofficial start of fall arrived in late August. Starbucks added pumpkin spice drinks to their menu. For many, that’s a surefire sign that cooler weather, football, and fall bonfires are right around the corner.

While fall may be a favorite time of year for many people, it hasn’t historically been a great season for investors. In fact, September is historically the worst month for stock market returns. Going back to 1950, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has a -0.8% average return in September while the S&P 500 has a -0.5% average return.1 Those averages are worse than the average return for any other month.

September isn’t down every year, but it happens frequently enough that the phenomenon has generated a nickname – the September Effect. What’s the cause of the September Effect? And how can you prepare? Below are some tips and guidance to help you plan.

Why does the September Effect happen?

There’s no clear answer why the September Effect happens. Or even if it’s a real phenomenon at all. Some people think it’s related to tax planning. People sell down positions before the fourth quarter in order to harvest potential tax losses. The widespread selling causes a downturn in the market.

Others suspect that the phenomenon is related to the end of summer. People think about their portfolio and investments over the summer, but don’t take action because they’re busy with vacations and other activities. After summer is over, they sell positions and make adjustments and, again, the widespread selling causes a slight downturn.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that there is no actual cause. It’s possible that the phenomenon is completely coincidental. It doesn’t happen every year. In fact, over the past 25 years, the median return in September for the S&P 500 has been positive.1 It’s possible that there is no actual September effect and the historical returns are a matter of circumstance.

How do you prepare for the September Effect?

You may be curious about how you should prepare for the September Effect, or if you should at all. The short answer is that it usually isn’t wise to plan your retirement strategy based on short-term expectations.

While September may have a history of being negative, that doesn’t mean it always is. Also, it’s incredibly difficult to predict the market’s movement in the short-term, if not impossible. You could make changes to your strategy in expectation of a downturn and the market could do the exact opposite.

Instead, focus on your long-term strategy. Your retirement planning approach should be based on your unique goals, needs, and risks. That strategy shouldn’t change just because one month may have poor returns.

What is your strategy?

If you don’t have a long-term retirement strategy, now may be the time to develop one. Let’s talk about it. We can help you analyze your needs and implement a strategy. We can help you analyze your goals and possible risks and implement a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.


Citations
  1. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/septworstmonth.asp

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