It's About The Rules

Some character on Twitter had a super reductive but excellent quote about what matters in which markets:

Mr. Sparticus Zorro here is talking about stocks, I think. But this line of thinking goes much further.

Consider this in terms of personal finances - let's say you're a business owner. When times are good, you are growing, hiring new people, adding lines of business, what is the one thing that really matters? Revenue. Revenue solves so, so many problems. As Elad Gil says, growth can cover up a lot of mistakes. 

Conversely, what is the biggest, most obvious factor that will dictate your survival in tougher times? It's your balance sheet - your line of defense, your castle walls. Cash on hand and evergreen lines of credit. Lack of onerous interest payments. The strength - or lack thereof - of your balance sheet will determine, above all else, what you have to do to survive in a tough period.

Even for a steady W-2 employee this logic holds. A "bull market" could mean a period in which you have a well-paid position, no medical problems, no children, affordable living costs. A "bear market" is your first kid, a tough diagnosis, a layoff, an aging family member. 

What you take home in good times, what you have saved in bad times. (Also, insurance.) Not as complicated as the CFA Institute would have you believe.

I don't mean to imply that every individual household is also a corporation deserving of nuanced financial analysis, but, you know, kind of. 

Robinson Crawford