Issue #233: I'm almost 32, and the Dow is almost 40K

plus emoji art + Sherlock Holmes
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April 10, 2024 • Issue #233
Dollar Scholar

Hi y’all —

My birthday is on Sunday! I’m turning 32, and I’ve already started celebrating: Last weekend I drank frozen margaritas, made custom jewelry and saw Olivia Rodrigo in concert with my girlfriends. (I, like every annoying person you know, observe my birthday all month long.) 

But I’m not the only one partying. Over on Wall Street, traders are getting ready for an achievement of their own: the Dow notching 40,000 points for the first time. This seems like a big deal, if only for Peter Tuchman and his hats.

What does the Dow crossing 40,000 mean? Will it impact me?

We learned this way back in issue #34, but as a refresher: “The Dow” is shorthand for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market index that tracks the performance of 30 of the nation’s top companies, with their weight dictated by their share prices. 

The Dow is super old, dating back to before 1900. “It has historically held an important place in investors’ minds because it is viewed as a proxy for the overall stock market,” Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, tells me.

So is the S&P 500, an index that tracks the performance of the nation’s 500 biggest companies. But Hooper says that the Dow is considered to be composed of “blue-chip” stocks, meaning they boast high values, robust histories and consistent profits. Right now, the Dow includes firms like Home Depot, McDonald’s, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Coca-Cola and American Express. 

Because the Dow boasts such a variety of companies — and those companies are household names easily recognized by consumers — investors tend to pay close attention to it, says Elizabeth MacBride, co-author of The Little Book of Robo Investing: How to Make Money While You Sleep

Even if a handful of the 30 companies are hitting a rough patch, as long as the majority are doing well,  the U.S. economy is typically doing well, too. Therefore, the Dow is a gauge of confidence and market sentiment.

Very simply: Up is good, down is bad.

The value of the Dow is the sum of the price per share for each stock divided by a predetermined number called the Dow divisor. At the end of its first trading day in 1885, the Dow closed at 62.76 (back then it only had 12 companies and was calculated differently, but you get the gist). Its value has grown rapidly: The Dow passed 10,000 in March 1999, 20,000 in January 2017 and 30,000 in November 2020.

The Dow has been flirting with 40,000 for weeks now, having notched 35,000 this past November. As I write this, it’s at 38,841.44. But it's the overall rise that's more important than any specific number the Dow is leaving in its rearview.

“It’s an important psychological milestone, not dissimilar to when someone turns 21 or when they turn 30,” Hooper says. “It’s first and foremost psychological, but, of course, it does symbolize significant progress for stock prices.”

Hitting 40,000 would be a good sign for the economy at large, but it doesn’t have a ton of impact on me individually. In fact, MacBride says, Dow 40K should mostly be a sign that I should stay invested for the long term.

“Investing today is essentially your bet that the world economy is going to continue to grow, and you want to be part of that growth,” she says. “The Dow Jones Industrial Average going up and hitting a milestone is just a reminder that, yeah, it’s still growing.”

These sorts of fluctuations aren’t uncommon; even if the Dow crosses a milestone, it could quickly fall below it, then repeat the process. MacBride says it’s like I’m walking up a hill with a yo-yo in my hand. The yo-yo will go up and down, but as long as I keep walking, my yo-yo will ultimately end up in a higher place.

For instance, at one point in March 2009, during the Great Recession, the Dow closed under 7,000. Now, less than two decades later, we’re eyeing 40,000.

“That is incredible when you think about how significant that growth has been in just 15 years,” she says. “So if there's one message I can give to young investors, it would be the importance of not being scared by market drops.”

Speaking broadly, the Dow hitting a milestone like 40,000 should mean my own well-diversified portfolio is thriving — probably not at the exact rate that the 30 stocks in the index are (unless I own a fund that tracks them), but just in aggregate. Crucially, it can also be a practical indication that I need to change my strategy.

“If you check your portfolio and you’re not doing too well right now, it is a good sign you’re invested too narrowly,” MacBride says.

The bottom line
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)

When the Dow Jones Industrial Average crosses the 40,000 mark in the coming days, it’ll mean the economy is performing well. Although the index itself is limited, the Dow is considered a barometer for how things are going in general, so this milestone will likely be well-received by investors.

“Any time there’s a new level hit, that can be an important positive indicator,” Hooper says.

Smart MONEY MOVE
prep for pet bills

PetLife has many plot twists — some good (Jonas Brothers reuniting), some bad (Zayn leaving One Direction). A surprise $8,000 bill from the vet? Yeah, that’s going in the very bad pile. Thankfully, the average pet insurance policy with unlimited annual coverage starts at $47/month. That means you could protect your furbaby *and* potentially save thousands, just by being prepared. Now that’s worth a tail wag or two.

See Money’s list of best pet insurance providers and give your good boy (or girl) the protection they deserve.

Receipt of the week
check out this wild celebrity purchase
Charlize Theron at Disney World
via Instagram

Actress Charlize Theron took her daughters to Disney World for vacation, writing in an Instagram post “Spring break mode activated.” The family visited Cinderella Castle, rode Tron Lightcycle Run and presumably paid the ever-rising ticket price of $109 per person. Even for Furiosa, the most magical place on earth is getting expensive.

Internet gold
five things I'm loving online right now
1
How cool is this New York Post story about an artist who makes meticulous celebrity portraits out of emojis? Lauren Edelstein described her masterpieces as “very similar to the Mona Lisa, if the Mona Lisa was Dolly Parton and the paint was dumplings and disco balls.” So creative.
2
I can’t stop looking at these colorful turtles.
3
Arthur Conan Doyle's handwritten manuscript of “The Sign of Four,” a Sherlock Holmes story, is set to be auctioned off in June. It’s anticipated that buyers will drive the price up to $1.2 million because it’s so significant and rare: The book “seems to have sprung almost fully formed, from his mind to his pen,” one expert told CNN. Just like me with Dollar Scholar!
4
Did you know there was once a lottery where you could get cash for driving safely?

401(k)ITTY CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Jiji
via Jared Kaplan
Meet Jiji, a financially smart feline who just heard the Dow is crossing purr-ty thousand points. 

See you next week.

P.S. Are you anxiously awaiting Dow 40K? Have you ever won money in a lottery? When’s the last time you went to Disney World? Send cake and gifts to julia@money.com

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