Is it normal to lose $10k in 4 months?


So…it’s my first year investing and I contributed at least $10,000 between my 401k and my robo-advisor between Sep to Dec 2018. At the end of August, my balance was $83k and in Dec my balance was $83k as though I didn’t contribute anything.

This just seems like a lot considering all the updates I see around the PF blogosophere with people still increasing their net worth over this same time period or losing some money but not nearly as much proportionally.

I know it’s Christmas, but it’s on my mind…


I wouldn’t call it normal as this isn’t something you expect every year or anything like that but it’s not unexpected as the stock market has a tendency to drop quite a bit every 5-10 years.

Just to give you more perspective, I was at 560k in August-ish and I’m down to 480k now. The updates you saw probably didn’t include December as most of the ugliness happened this month. My last update on December 10th had me at 540k and then things to ugly.

You’re early in your journey where contributions are the biggest part of your growth so you’re in a good spot to take advantage of this and shouldn’t be too concerned about the lower prices. Buying today is better than buying in September from a long term perspective.

That being said, things could certainly get a lot worse - who knows.


10k is nothing.

What we have right now is called a bear market. A 20 percent decline from a recent high, October actually. They happen every few years with the last ten being a bit of an anomaly. We had a correction (ten percent decline) as recent ago as 2015. The more you have the larger 10 percent is. On a million dollar portfolio like those closer to fi you just lost a midwestern house.

If the amount scares you it’s time to reconsider your asset allocation. For comparison in 2008 -2009 the market dropped 50 percent. You should be at an allocation that allows you to sleep when that happens, as it does happen.


I think some of the responses have addressed the main points, but here are my two cents.

There was a point over Thanksgiving drinks when my wife mentioned to her older brother that we had lost over $70,000 in the stock market during the recent market volatility. He started to make a big deal of this, but I stopped him and mentioned that Warren Buffet had likely lost $5-10 billion. The point here is not to fixate on the actual dollar amount, but to focus on the percentage gains and losses when trying to determine what’s “normal” or not. To start, you can compare how your portfolio did relative to the S&P 500.

As for people continuing to build net worth in the backdrop of volatile market conditions, it is likely due to a lag in monthly reporting and also a small asset base. You’ll see the impact of the December bloodshed in the next couple weeks. When you start to have a large asset base, say $2m+, and you lose 10% of it, your monthly income won’t be able to make up for market losses.


Thank you all for your replies.

Thanks @timeinthemarket for sharing your numbers. Yes, it did help put it in perspective. I really appreciate it. And especially after reading your post and then seeing this update.

To give you all some context. It’s my first year doing this and I watched quite a bit of CNBC’s American Greed prior to 2018. So I half think I’m going to get swindled. And I’m not entirely confident what my allocation should be since I’m not really interested in the 20 years it takes for everything to balance out.

That being said, as @FullTimeFinance pointed out I did reconsider my asset allocation. I know you’re not supposed to react to downturns, but I’m just a human. I left the 401k for now, but for my robo-advisor I went from 90/10 to 68/32.

Post post script. I had 5k I was supposed to be contributing to robo-advisor at end of year, but after the losses, I didn’t go through with it. Was going to do a CD instead (can you say risk-averse). But in my scouring of other posts for losses, I stumbled upon someone that wrote that it’s unlikely that there will be this much of a decline 2 years in a row based on historical data. So I’m reconsidering contributing.


And as a new investor, think about it as buying at last year’s prices. Any money you are currently investing is going to give you much more bang for your buck than it did in the Summer.

My 401(k) has had a 21% loss since September. It’s 95% equities.


Don’t worry too much about quoted market values - it is just what the collection of people/funds/other funds/algorithms are willing to pay for it this week.

In the 2008-2009 drop my balances dropped 50% and often the quoted value lost a years worth a saving each week. So I added more money on the way down as the underlying business were the same - just selling for less. Some did go bust but in the subsequent years the aggregate amount tripled and then some - but only because I didn’t equate new market values (again just what buyers this week are willing to paying) with the actual value of the businesses.

Further drops will get you better deals on new contributions. Partial ownership in the same business you invested in 3 months ago (Hershey Chocolates, Google, Exxon, Colgate) are now on sale for 20%. Don’t be surprised if the prices go even lower. Or bounce back. Or stay here. It is just the nature of an auction based market place. Unless you need the money in the next five years, stay the course.



I don’t call them losses unless they’re realized. I would say that I’m down. As in, my portfolio was down nearly $500,000 from peak, and I got back nearly $100,000 today.

Some months are more volatile than others, but what we’re seeing is not unprecedented.


I am sorry to hear that. It isn’t unusual as the stock market never remains constant. The value of my stocks has also declined. Historically, in the long term the stock market always moved higher. One can argue (and hope) that in the long term the market will also rise. Paper losses along the way isn’t an issue when you don’t sell your stocks.


Keep investing. Consider putting most of it into alternative assets such as precious metals, cryptocurrencies and commodities. Check out Ray Dalio’s book ‘Principles’ for more great knowledge.


It’s not a loss until you sell.

It is not uncommon for my portfolio to fluctuate +/- $100k+ daily. So for me it is “normal” for sure.

Just keep up with dollar cost averaging. Buying steadily through the ups and downs is how you wind up with an average buy-in price that is lower than the actual market average price.


Mine did the same, barely moving between July ($71,000) and the end of the year ($77,500)

In that time I contributed $11,400, and the value only climbed $6,500… it’s just what the market was doing at the time.

Flip side is between July '16 and July '17 I gained $4,400 - swings and roundabouts


As long as you don’t sell then you haven’t lost anything! Markets tend to fluctuate but historically has always increased over the long term. Buckle up and hang tight, we’re in this for the long haul!