Share prices are tanking. Please read this

ASX-listed companies won't be doing anything different tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, no matter what happens in Ukraine.

Scott Phillips

Image source: Motley Fool Australia

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Right now, I'm sitting at my desk, a little numb.

My Twitter feed is full of real-time reports of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

True, it's half a world away, but I can't help but think "There but for the grace of whatever god there may be, go I".

The invasion is, of course, unconscionable. Despicable.

Ukrainians are pondering a scary and uncertain future, not sure what happens next. Hoping, I'm sure, for the best, but perhaps expecting the worst.

For a world used to relative peace (with exceptions) in modern times, this is a sobering slice of ugly reality.

I'm a finance guy, of course. The Motley Fool is an investment advisory business.

Markets are down today. By a decent margin.

I'll get to that, but it's hard to prioritise a relatively small percentage point loss, against what the people of Ukraine have awoken to this morning, their time.

I just did a finance segment on Radio 2GB in Sydney. Yes, the market is ugly, I said. But it's hard to make that the first thing we talk about, given the impact on lives in Europe.

And yet, as I said, I'm a finance guy, working for an investment company. So, knowing that people would be worried, and in keeping with my area of expertise, I did what I thought was important: I explained what's going on, finance-wise, and I put it in the context of the long term journey of wealth creation and preservation.

And, of course, it's possible to walk and chew gum at the same time: to fully acknowledge the horror of an invasion of Ukraine and at the same time consider the investment response.

So, I'll do that, here, too, for our members and readers.

Because it's at times like these that I think our advice can be most useful.

It's when the world is feeling like it's spinning out of control that it's most important to keep a cool head.

And, frankly, it's times like these that I hope the value of having a little reassurance comes to the fore.

So, here's what I want you to know:

I want you to know that no-one knows what the short-term will bring. Just as geopolitics is unpredictable, so is the share market.

Why? For the same reasons: the fundamentals are one thing… but in the short term it's people who influence things most. Sentiment. Mood. Emotion. Panic. Fear. Greed. They'll all govern how share prices move in the next few days and weeks.

And the problem is that we can't know how that'll change. Maybe investors and traders go into a long, drawn-out funk. Or maybe bargain hunters start buying first thing in the morning, and the ASX closes higher tomorrow.

I don't know, and you don't know. And we need to make our peace with that short-term uncertainty.

I want you to know that, with a few exceptions, ASX-listed companies won't be doing anything different tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, no matter what happens in Ukraine.

Which means that any share price falls are completely disconnected from business fundamentals in many, frankly most, cases. Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW) keeps selling groceries. Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) keeps restoring hearing. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) keeps processing transactions.

I want you to know that we've been here before. Dozens of times.

We've lived and invested through wars, terror attacks, financial crises and health crises. We've lived and invested through currency crises, inflation crises, political crises and geopolitical crises.

None of it was fun. Almost all of it was volatile, and stomach-churning.

But, as you know by now, none of it stopped the market's relentless, if two-steps-forward-one-step-back inexorable long term rise.

And I want you to know what I'm doing: investing.

Right now, I have $43.84 in my investing account. Everything else is in the market.

Which means… Well, it means today hurts.

But it is entirely keeping with my investing approach.

I'm (almost) always fully invested.

Why? Because, over time, the market has always set new highs.

Not in the absence of tough days like today.

But despite these sorts of days.

And if the market is likely (in my view) to trend higher over time, the longer I wait to invest my savings, the more likely it is to cost me money.

No, not on days like today.

But on all of those other days when the market rises: slowly, often imperceptibly, but meaningfully.

I'll tell you what else I'm doing: I'm waiting with baited breath for my pay to hit my account in the next couple of days.

I'll be investing it almost immediately (Motley Fool trading rules notwithstanding).

Again, not because I know the market is poised to go higher immediately… but because I think it will go much higher over the long term, and I want as much exposure to those gains as I can get.

My investment horizon is measured in decades.

I expect the ASX (and the US market, among others) to be much, much, much higher in 20 or 30 years.

I want my share of that value creation.

The price?

There are two prices to be paid:

First, I have to give up current consumption, and put money away for 'future Scott'.

Second, I have to accept that the journey will be bumpy, even if the destination makes all of those lumps and bumps worthwhile.

That might be cold comfort on days like today.

But that's exactly when we need to hear it.

If you measure your investment goals in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or months, I can't help you.

I doubt anyone can.

But if your investment horizon is measured in years, I have good news.

Over decades, the ASX has created massive amounts of wealth. Through the best and the worst that the 20th and 21st centuries have been able to throw at it.

True, there's no guarantee that the future will be the same as the past.

But it would be a brave person to throw out 120 years of history.

It's time to hunker down and commit to staying the course.

Maybe it gets worse before it gets better. Maybe this is as bad as it gets.

Either way, my money – literally, shares are my only investment – says there are many and much brighter days ahead for investors.

I also hope the same is true for Ukraine.

Fool on!

Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Cochlear Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Cochlear Ltd. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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