A recent article by New York Times columnist Carl Richards offers investors a road map for riding out today’s market volatility:
- Give yourself a break: It’s okay to feel “scared and unsure what to do next,” Richards writes, advising investors to accept the feelings as part of their humanness and to resist feeling guilty or “dumb” about it.
- Remember why you invested in the first place: Richards advises investors to circle back to their original, long-term investment goals to maintain perspective and calm. “They might be things like spending more time with your kids, financial security in retirement or making large charitable donations. But there’s no wrong answer, unless you haven’t set any goals at all. And if you haven’t, now is the time.”
- Revisit the investment process: History underscores the certainty that markets will fluctuate, writes Richards. “Scary markets are quite literally part of the plan, since the stocks that give you decent returns over decades come with risk that their prices will bounce around a fair bit in the shorter term.” He argues that as long as your investment goals remain intact, sticking to your plan is your best bet: “What definitely does not give you the best chance of achieving your goals is blowing up a well-designed portfolio because it has lost some money on paper.” He points out that while every crisis in our history has had its own unique characteristics, “the scary periods have all ended the same way: They stopped.”
- Stay in the lifeboat: “Adults re-evaluate their investments when their goals change, not when the markets change.” Richards likens the current crisis to being in a lifeboat, blown around by a storm: “But we’ve done the drills. We talked about this back in 2016 when the water was calm.”
- Do something else: Richards advises investors to pivot their thinking when worry takes over and make a list of things they have some control over. “My list includes making small increases to automatic investments (even $10 feels good), going on regular walks, getting outside, reading a new book, calling my mom and checking in with friends.”
Richards concludes: “In the end, all we can do is control what we can and learn to accept what we can’t.” He adds, I’m not saying this guide is perfect. It’s just better than anything else we can do right now.”