Broker Check

Three Things to do when Markets Tumble (hiding under your desk isn’t one of them!)

June 13, 2022

If this Blog seems like a previous one that was recently sent, you are correct. I am updating our post from Feb. 24, 2022, because nearly four months later, folks are getting scared.

May I please share some wisdom and perspective? I’ve been a financial advisor for thirty-nine years. Not an eternity but none-the-less, a significant length of time. During my tenure there have been plenty of opportunities to be fearful about the stock market. The chart below highlights a few of those times, such as Black Monday in 1987, the Dotcom Bubble Crash in 2000, 9/11/01Brexit in 2016 and of course, the Covid Pandemic of 2020:

This year so far, fears are being fueled by for many reasons, including the Russian Invasion and by spiraling Inflation.

I don’t have to tell you that during these types of times, it is normal and natural to be shaken and to give thought to navigating away from your long-term plans and asset allocation models, ones that have been built based upon key factors, namely, your retirement goals, your income needs, your time frames, and your tolerance for risk. The notion of selling everything, even at a loss, to avoid further losses, and then, getting back in at the right time, well, it is only natural to wonder if that might work...

I can tell you that during my career, market timing does not work! That has been my experience with the very small number of our clients who insisted they wanted out. We allow that activity, of course, because it’s their money. Yet we also inform them that they are also in charge of when to get back in. Sadly, once this fear-based selling tactic is deployed, many of those who said they would get back in when "things calm down," well, they never get back in, because new waves of fears always surface, sometimes related to original ones, like a new strand of a virus, while other times, new, fresh reasons to worry surface.  

Here's what I firmly believe.

  • Capitalism works and will win
  • Markets are efficient and they adjust themselves when they will, without emotional buy-in from us

Patrick Sweeny is a co-founder of Symmetry Partners. He’s been a trusted colleague of mine since 2003, when I began to utilize his firm’s portfolios first for myself, and thereafter for hundreds of our clients. Click here to watch his short, impactful YouTube video: Bear Market Planning and Behavioral Finance- Patrick Sweeny of Symmetry Partners. Note that this one-and-a-half-minute video was first published five years ago and is as true now as it was then!

Now let’s focus on three things you can do when markets tumble:

1. Reduce portfolio withdrawals:  Try not to sell if it all possible and instead, utilize excess cash on hand to meet income needs at this time. This can be tricky if you are taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) from IRA’s. Requirements can be delayed until later in the year and we can talk through those scenarios. If you are taking withdrawals from non-retirement accounts, consider slowing or discontinuing them for the time being and use excess cash reserves, if available, to meet living expenses.

2. BUY! Increase portfolio Investments: Consider these year-to-date results:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: -15.35%
  • S & P 500: -20.28%
  • NASDAQ: -29.98%

These losses, in my opinion for long-term investors, those willing to invest for a period of five years or more, represent HUGE SALE PRICES! While it takes courage and a long-term view, this could be an exceptional time to invest excess cash.

For those brave, opportunistic ones, we can also discuss “dollar-cost-averaging”, also known as “incremental investing”, which is to designate a lump-sum of cash to be invested, and then, adding a portion of said cash over a period of months.

3. Portfolio Adjustments: Resist the desire to adjust your asset allocations because of news. We only advise altering allocations because of changes to goals.

In closing, I believe that capitalism will defeat communism and that inflation will slowly be tamed, yet there have been and always will be periods of volatility, and sometimes the swings can be extreme. Don’t turn temporary paper losses into permanent portfolio losses by needlessly selling. Remember our mantra: “Build a portfolio that you can live with and then live with it.” This advice has served our clients well, and has guided me personally through numerous storms, spanning a thirty-nine-year period.