How to Stay Positive When the Market Gets Negative

When investors experience market turbulence, it’s never fun. It’s a lot like being on a plane when the fasten seatbelt sign goes on and the wings of the craft start flapping like a bird in air. Our investment firm has experienced 30% of the worst days in the market since the year 1899,so we’ve endured our share of turbulence. The purpose of this note is to address participants investing in their 401k plan and to share lessons we’ve learned from the past.

  1. Participants should understand what is “normal" turbulence in the stock market. A correction (aka turbulence) is typically defined by a decline of 10% or more with a “bear market” declining 20% or more. Although corrections and bear markets never feel good, they should be considered normal and expected. In the last 85 years, there have been 51 corrections or bear markets. In the last five years alone, we’ve had six periods of declines of nearly 8% or more. In short, normal never feels good but normal is normal.
  2. As the Dow Jones has increased in value from the year 1987 (1,793) to today (16,000), the drops in point value don’t have the same impact as in earlier times. Take for example the one day crash in 1987 where the market lost 8% of it’s value in a single day with a 156 point drop. If that same sort of drop were to occur today, we’d need to see a 1,600 point plunge. The bigger number seems scarier on the surface but its impact as a % loss on the portfolio is the same. Put another way, 156 point drop today would not even be a 1% drop…
  3. When thinking about what to do when turbulence sets in, participants MUST think about their personal timelines for their money. In most cases, for someone 50 years or younger, you’ll have 15+ working/investing years before retirement. During those 15 years you get the benefit of being able to buy into the market as it declines. Ultimately, without having to think about it, you are buying lower with the hope that the shares you are purchasing NOW will be worth more in the future. For those nearing retirement, the question about what to do is a bit more complex. At or near retirement making sure you have adequate cash and safe investments to cover living expenses is everything. Having several years worth of living expenses put aside in CD’s, cash, or money markets makes a ton of sense. This enables you to hold onto the stock or equity investments you have until the turbulence subsides.
  4. Managing your emotions during the turbulence is wise. Much like unbuckling your seatbelt and walking around the cabin during a rough flight, making snap decisions about your 401k during turbulent times can be dangerous to your financial future. Again, although it does NOT feel good when the market(s) get choppy, acting prudently and slowing down can greatly benefit you and your retirement funds. One of the many benefits of being a Human Investing 401k client is access to our 8am-5pm Monday to Friday call in line. One of our advisors can walk you through all your options as well as give you advice based on your specific account. In the end, whatever you opt to do, your decision will be well thought out, informed and discussed.

There are many important lessons we’ve learned from the past. This note is intended to take those lessons and to provide you with some perspective and thoughts on how you might want to approach volatility in your account. In the end, if you have questions and want to talk it over with one of our advisors, please call us as we would be happy to hear from you.

InvestmentsPeter Fisher