Avoid Panic With Your 401(K): The DO’s & DON’Ts
Due to falling oil prices and coronavirus fears, we’ve seen a market correction over the past couple weeks. Emotional reactions from investors are not unprecedented. The combination of a pandemic outbreak and a recession has not occurred in several generations. Although the source is unique, this is not significantly different from previous periods of market volatility, and is not surprising given market gains of the past 12 years.
All of this makes it difficult for investors to continue with their current investments. During the market’s roller-coaster ride, long-term investors shouldn’t panic. Rather, consider taking these proactive steps — some do’s and don’ts — right now:
DO think about when you’ll retire: Your “time horizon” is key. Someone in their 20s should be much more aggressive with their investments than someone in their 50s or 60s.
Those in their 20s, 30s and even some in their 40s have decades until retirement and should take market swings in stride. They are a small blip on the long-term radar.
If you’re less than five years away from retirement, you should be more conservative with your investments.
DO check your asset allocation: As you get closer to retirement, you should gradually tweak your portfolio to have a larger allocation in bonds. If you are invested in a target-date fund, the allocation of stocks and bonds automatically adjusts and becomes more conservative each year as you get closer to retirement.
DO review your contribution rate: Confirm you are contributing enough to your 401(k) account to receive the company match, ideally a little more. The average investor needs to contribute 10 – 15% to retire. Now is a great opportunity to buy stocks “at a discount” and get “free money” from your employer.
DO remember, you can’t time the market: You never know when the market is going to have a ‘good day.’ Between 1993 and 2019, the S&P 500 had an annual return of 9.2%. If you had missed just the 10 best market days during that time period, your annual returns would have dropped to roughly half, or 5.4%. If the market is having a good day, you want to be there for it — not sitting out on the sidelines.
DO remember, the media is selling advertising: They thrive by selling emotionally grabbing headlines. Their dire projections of our markets almost never become reality. This will be no different. We have survived worse and will certainly survive this!
DON’T make knee-jerk changes: Research consistently shows, nearly one-third of investors admitted to making emotional decisions to sell in a 401(k) plan — and then regretted it. Almost half of those who sold self-described their investment knowledge as “expert or advanced”.
We are here to help you. Our team has the experience and expertise to guide you through this.
Please contact our team with any questions. We are happy to review your plan with you anytime, especially if you have increased anxiety. It can be tremendously comforting to review with us how we have designed your investments for these situations.