There are basically three types of years in the market:
1. Years that basically go straight up—2013 is a good example
2. Years that basically go straight down–2008 is a good example
3. Years that could be up or down but are really choppy–so far 2014 is a good example
No investment strategy can do well in all types of markets, every strategy has its kryptonite.
A buy and hold or asset allocation strategy that has a meaningful allocation to stocks should do well in an up market, awful in a down market, and probably ok in a choppy market. That means that you can make some good upside in an upmarket but will give it all back, and then some perhaps, in a down market. That doesn’t sound like a great trade off to me.
A tactical strategy should do well in an up market and a down market and will struggle in a choppy market. That means that a tactical strategy can make money in an up market, make money, or at least not lose money, in a down market, and make a little or lose a little in a choppy market. This seems like a much better trade off to me. You have the potential to avoid the large losses and just have to experience some frustration in a choppy market that has no real lasting trend.
Of course what you do year by year doesn’t matter that much in the overall picture, the most important thing is how you do over time. If you can avoid the large losses in the down market then you should be much better off over time than the people who ride the market up and ride the market down.