If the swoops and plunges of the stock market are leaving you fearful, anxious or depressed, may I suggest an easy solution? Turn it off off...
If the swoops and plunges of the stock market are leaving you fearful, anxious or depressed, may I suggest an easy solution?
Turn it off.
Turn off the TV business shows.
Delete the ticker from your desktop or feed reader.
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Stop obsessively checking your portfolio.
Turn. It. Off.
Unless you make your living as a trader, the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market are just noise. Most of us are decades away from tapping our investments for retirement, so what the market does today or tomorrow or three years from now is essentially meaningless.
What matters is what happens over the long run, and in the long run stocks have performed better than any other investment.
If you really can’t sleep at night, or you wound up taking more risk than you realized, then rebalancing your portfolio might be in order.
But otherwise, action isn’t necessary; in fact, it’s usually counterproductive. Those who sell in a panic lock in their losses, and then they typically miss the surges that follow. They sell low and buy high, exactly the opposite of what a successful investor does.So turn it off and go live your life. If my last suggestion to “turn it off” isn’t helping your stock market jitters, consider trying one or more of the following:
1. Remind yourself that this is normal. Plunging stock markets can feel awful, but corrections (a 10 percent drop from market peaks) and bear markets (a 20 percent drop) are in fact routine.2. Tune out the talking heads. Predictions of doom and gloom drive lots of traffic on Web sites and lots of viewers to TV shows. The reality is that NOBODY knows exactly what’s going to happen next, but over the long haul the market has always posted gains.
3. Find a debt to pay off. Your net worth is the value of your assets minus your liabilities, and your assets have probably suffered a one-two punch, thanks to falling stock prices and falling home values. So focus on reducing your liabilities. Set up automatic transfers to pay off any credit card or other toxic debt.
4. Boost your savings. Having savings equal to a few months’ worth of expenses can give you a psychological as well as financial cushion; you’ll feel better about being able to weather whatever storms come your way. It’s easy to set up a high-yield (5%+), no fee, no minimum account on line and link it with your brick-and-mortar checking account; do it today, and set up automatic transfers.
5. Make an appointment with a fee-only financial planner. You’re probably overdue for an objective review of your portfolio, and it can be nice to have a seasoned expert hold your hand through market turmoil. You can find one through NAPFA.org or GarrettPlanningNetwork.com.
Liz Pulliam Weston is the author of “Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life” (December 2007).