Richard Jernigan -> RE: Stock market and cryptocurrency (Feb. 24 2021 4:27:04)
Can someone explain to me why it’s not all just called “gambling”?
If you play the games in a casino, you are very likely to lose money over the long run. The odds are stacked against you. If you shoot craps with your friends, you are likely to break even in the long run, if you don't go broke first. If you play poker with your friends, the outcome hinges on the distribution of skill among the group. Poker is called gambling, but it is in fact a game of skill.
Why would the stock market not just be called "gambling"? Because in the stock market, in the long run you will make money if you play it right. Here's a chart the illustrates that.
The S&P 500 is a list of publicly traded stocks selected to cover a wide number of industrial areas. The blue line is the S&P 500 price (vertical axis on the left). The orange line is the average earnings per share for the S&P (axis on the right). The price of the S&P closely parallels the earnings per share.
OK, so they went up. Why did they do that, and why are they likely to continue?
I'm no expert, but Warren Buffett, who is an expert, says the answer is increasing productivity. I read this to mean that he thinks increasing productivity is the main driver of the stock market's upward trend.
There are a lot of different measures of productivity, but let's look at one, non-farm productivity. To calculate this you survey non-farm industries. You record the value O of its outputs and the cost of its inputs I. O-I is the added value. You divide this by the number H of hours worked. Productivity P = (O-I)/H. P is a measure of the efficiency of the industry. The more money you make per hour worked, the higher the value of P.
Here's a chart of the history of P.
Joint stock companies sell shares of stock to raise money. When you buy a share, you own a piece of the company. The company uses the money to pay for facilities, research...things to make money with. When the company makes more money per hour worked, you get more bang for your buck. Companies become more efficient in a variety of ways. Big ways include advances in technology and more efficient organization. Warren Buffett (him again) points out that people today aren't smarter than they were in 1920, nor do they work harder per hour. But the accumulated value of the advancement of business culture-including technology and organization-has driven the rise in productivity.
Playing the stock market short term is gambling. Trying to pick stocks or timing the market short term are losing games, relative to the S&P 500. But if you invest in a broadly diverse portfolio and hold for years, you are betting on the continued advance of at least one element of civilization.
You can buy exchange traded funds whose investment strategy is for each share to parallel the S&P 500, or other market indicators.
So far, so good.
But, as I said, once I had made my stake, I got out. I don't regret the money I have passed up over the last 10 or 12 years. I have enough. I sleep well at night.