“Investors can survive a bear market the same way hikers survive an encounter with a bear: Remain calm and don’t make sudden moves.” — Jason Zweig, personal finance columnist
The year 2020 has been both unique and unsettling. Why? The U.S. economy was moving along at a nice clip and then, quite suddenly, we found ourselves fighting a battle on two fronts: The COVID-19 health crisis, and the subsequent economic slowdown that we chose as a response to the pandemic. Both are impacting people on a personal level and in ways the vast majority of us have never experienced before.
For investors, this moment can seem particularly scary. Retirement plans—a reflection of years of saving and sacrifice—now appear to be at risk. Worse, the global pandemic that is the root cause of everything is well beyond our control.
However, we believe that now is the time to stop and reflect. Believe it or not, our country has experienced other storms and disruptions before; in fact, there were moments on the historical list that were much worse than the things we are facing today. Remember the Great Depression of the 1930’s? World War II? The massive inflation of the 1970’s and the stock market explosion of the late 1980’s? Each time, our economy rebounded, the markets resumed their climb to new highs and our society progressed. History is our guide and it tells the story of our country’s strength and resiliency.
Clearly, we are living a moment of chaos. But bear in mind, it is also a moment of opportunity. It is a moment to stay the course and not to panic. The central cause—the coronavirus—is not permanent. It is a viral event that will be resolved and, for investors, this is important to remember. Our confidence is high because we believe in the qualities of our country and the optimism of our people. These attributes will lift us up and will carry us forward.
So if you have been committed to a financial plan and an investing strategy for your long-term goals, this is not the time to get emotional, or to make a sudden move that radically changes your carefully constructed plans for the long term.
Instead, take comfort in your rational side: try to stay focused on your long-term time horizon and don’t lose sight of your goals. If you can, keep investing in your company 401k at the rate you have been investing. Over time, making these investments while the market is down may prove to be quite lucrative.
If you are feeling extremely rational, you can look at these times as a time for opportunity. When you have a long-term view, you can take advantage of market swoons by rebalancing your portfolio to accommodate for the shifts in your assets due to large price changes. You can also take some strategic losses for the purposes of tax loss harvesting. And at a time when everything on the market is down, you can upgrade to higher quality stocks that are now cheap.
For those with standard IRAs and/or 401ks who are considering converting to a Roth IRA or 401k, now is a great time to make the move. As you make the conversion with depressed assets, you will face a lower tax burden when making the change.
Whatever the case, now is likely a good time to consult with a financial professional at a local bank to gain perspective, and to make any adjustments that will benefit you over the long-term. As an individual investor, time is on your side and making the right moves now will likely deliver greater rewards over the long term.