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AFTER ONE OF THE LEAST VOLATILE YEARS IN DECADES, most investors started 2018 wondering: “How much longer can this bull market last?” By the first week of February, they had an answer. Volatility resurfaced, big time, as the market entered a temporary “correction”—or 10% drop from a previous high—leaving many people a bit shaken and uncertain about what might come next.
As markets begin to show signs of recovery, the big question becomes: What should I do to manage my investments during these uncertain times? To help you deal with this uncertainty, we turned to Andrew Porter, director of Behavioral Finance at Merrill Lynch. He offered the following ideas.
Tune out the noise. The deluge of information we receive every day from our phones, TVs and computers might have something to do with increasing levels of uncertainty, says Porter. “We are inundated with new information all the time. There is no break. And that can be exhausting.” This information saturation—news alerts, stock tickers, tweets and posts—may lead to poor reactions. “We’re hardwired to want this amount of information, but not hardwired to deal with it,” he says. Consider blocking your smartphone’s push notifications and repurposing that time for reading print media or having an in-person conversation with someone you trust.
Train yourself to look longer-term. Porter asks, “If you use an app on your phone or computer to follow the stock market, is it showing you daily, weekly or monthly trending?” Experiment with setting it to “as long a time horizon as possible,” he advises. “That way you aren’t constantly processing a feed of changing information. Remember: The length of time you stay invested in the market is generally more important than market timing.”
Define your goals for investing. “Knowing what you want your money to achieve can help you through market movements,” Porter says. “Market volatility can mean different things for a near-term goal, like a home purchase, compared to a twenty-year retirement goal.” Consider talking over the following questions with your advisor:
These tips, along with regular conversations with your advisor, can prevent you from overreacting to uncertainty—or volatility—as well as helping you to become a more confident investor. “A clearly-defined process can provide stability and perspective to help you make more thoughtful decisions.”
For regular insights on managing your investments through fluctuating markets, visit “Dealing with Volatility: What You Need to Know Now.”