Is the stock market too hot?


(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

I’ve been checking my 401(k) almost every day.

I should not be looking so often, but I can’t help myself. The high just keeps getting higher.

But my rejoice is tempered by the fact that I know with the stock market what goes up must and does come down. And sure enough my portfolio dipped a bit. (The climb down might have been related to the uncertainty about the cost of the GOP’s healthcare plan.)

With market roaring so high, makes me think of the song “Spinning Wheels” by Blood, Sweat Tears. (Watch the YouTube video and you’ll have that song in your head every time you look at your investment portfolio. Go ahead try not to.)

“What goes up must come down
Spinning wheel got to go ’round
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin
Ride a painted pony let the spinning wheel spin”

Despite the fantastic growth in my retirement account, I’m a bit nervous and I bet many of you are, too. You have to be wondering when will this ride be over? Or maybe you’re worried it’s been too high for too long and any day now it’s going to crash.

“If you’ve been in the market for a while, you are likely to be perching on a mountain of profits,” writes the New York Times’ Jeff Sommer. “Should you stay where you are and hope for further gains, or is it time to declare victory and move your money to safer ground? That’s an eternal question, one that returns whenever the market rises spectacularly. The answer depends, of course, on your analysis of two very different issues: the current situation in the markets, and the one in your own life.”

Overall, Sommer says ignore the market’s roller coaster and stay a “consistent investor for a horizon that lasts decades.”

But if you need your money soon, here’s what he says to do: liquidate what you need and be glad you’ve gotten some gains.

Stay alert he says, “it is surely wise to make sure, after a remarkable run in the stock market, that you will be able to handle a sharp downturn when it eventually comes.”

And not to scare you, but MarketWatch.com pointed out an anniversary some of you may have forgotten or want to forget.

“This week represents the 17th birthday of the longest equity bear market in U.S. history,” columnist Mark Hulbert points out. It’s when the Internet bubble burst.

Remember a bear market is generally viewed as bad (unless you are bargain shopping) and a bull market is good (unless you’re late to the game).

We’re in a bull market now.

But as Hulbert writes, quoting the great investor Warren Buffett: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

Here are some stories that make the case that the market still has room to grow.

Warren Buffett: Red-hot market not in a bubble, still looks ‘cheap’
In late February Buffett told CNBC: “We are not in bubble territory or anything of the sort.”
CNBC’s Matt Egan wrote: “The key, Buffett said, is that interest rates remain extremely low. That makes stocks look like a good deal by comparison.”

David Tepper has a clear reason the stock market’s ‘Trump rally’ has room to run

Elliott Wave suggests the stock market isn’t anywhere near a top

Here are some stories that make the case that what goes up must come down.

What worries investing guru Jack Bogle right now
Bogle, found of Vanguard, told CNNMoney: “I don’t feel super confident in the stock market. By any historical standards, it’s pretty fully valued.”

Economists: Stocks too hot
“Watch out, investors, because the rampaging stock market has gotten too hot, say a group of leading economists in a new Bankrate survey,” Mark Hamrick writes. “More than three-quarters of the experts say stocks are priced too high, thanks to the stunning rally underway since the election.”

Color Money question of the week
Are you concerned that the market is too high? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line put “Is the stock market too high?” Please include your name, city and state.

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Live chat today
Join me for a live discussion at noon (ET). It’s just you and me this week. So what’s on your mind about your money?

To participate in the discussion click this link.

Color of Money columns this week
This newsletter is a roundup of personal finance issues or stories I think you’ll find interesting. But below are my columns for this week. Read them as well. I don’t think you can ever read too much about money!

Five ways to increase your risk of the IRS auditing your taxes

The alarming consequences of co-signing your child’s student loans

If you flunk this test you could be paying too much in taxes
On behalf of the personal finance site NerdWallet, Harris Poll conducted an online survey just before tax season started. The results were very good. Most people got the questions wrong.

I encouraged you to take NerdWallet’s tax test. Here’s how some of you did on the test:

Alfreda Jones of Crofton, Md., wrote: “I didn’t do too bad on the test. I got five out of eight correct. I didn’t feel too bad about how I did because I got more than half right.”

Darren from Ohio got seven of eight correct: “I missed the question about IRA contributions. In fairness, I have a undergrad and graduate accounting education although I have never been a practicing accountant.”

Carol in West Hartford, Conn., got a perfect score writing, “I think it’s because, at 65, I’ve experienced all or nearly all of these (except the gambling losses). I have completed a W-4, contributed to a 529 plan, taken a filing extension, contributed to a traditional IRA, and done volunteer mileage. I filed my own tax returns until I had my own business and then I needed a CPA to assist me on the complex details.”

“I got everything correct, plus I knew the reasoning behind it,” wrote Andrea of Lynchburg, Va. “What scares me is that I think I know nothing at all about taxes. I’m a single parent and have two children in college and another on his way soon. Doing my taxes and filling out financial aid forms (the devil!) are the worst things I do all year.”

Al Andersen of Plymouth, Mass. wrote: “I had seven of the eight questions answered correctly. Which I should have since I teach a class in personal finances at my church.”

Maureen Connolly of Lakemont, Ga., wrote: “Interesting little quiz. I probably got all correct because I have done my own taxes every year since 1965 and I try to stay informed about taxes and investing.”

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

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