When you’re in a state of panic, you can do things really well, such as run after a bus, think up an excuse or find a last- minute gift. Other tasks require a calmer approach. You don’t want to be panicky when you’re slicing a tomato, pouring hot coffee or preparing your taxes — and certainly not when you’re investing for the long term.
Yet, in the midst of the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, the failure of some well-known banks and investment firms and the precipitous drop of stock prices, some investors are panicking. For them, the investment world has turned upside down.
But, as an individual investor, your world hasn’t really changed. You still have some long-term goals, such as comfortable retirement. You still need to invest to achieve those goals. And you still need to follow an investment strategy that’s appropriate for your individual objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon.
However, with so much negative news, you might be tempted to make hasty, short-term decisions. Don’t. Instead, follow these suggestions:
Be patient. There’s no denying that the markets are now extremely volatile. At the same time, if you avoid making sudden moves, such as putting all your money into “cash” instruments, your patience may well be rewarded. After all, we still have an enormously powerful and resilient economy.
Stay invested. In the past, the market has fallen sharply after a variety of events — wars, assassinations, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, corporate scandals and so on — only to regain its footing and move on to new highs. And since the biggest gains can occur in the early stages of a market turnaround, you could miss out on the possibility for considerable growth if you’re sitting on the investment sidelines.
Look for opportunities. If you never planned on buying any stocks again, you’d probably have good reason to be upset when you see the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling hundreds of points a day, which has happened several times recently. But if you are still investing for your future, you will be purchasing stocks, and that being the case the market decline actually gives you some great opportunities to buy at lower levels. You may not be Warren Buffet, who instead $5 billion in investment firm Goldman Sachs, but you can follow his long-held philosophy of buying quality stocks and holding them for the long term, through good markets and bad. It’s worked pretty well for him, and it may be a good idea for you, too.
These aren’t the easiest times for investors. But by showing patience and discipline, keeping your eyes open for opportunities and getting the help you need, you can get through these days with your investment goals intact and attainable.