In a stock market crisis, it's a natural reaction to want to do something. We're humans, top of the food chain. We want to be in control. When a crisis creates uncertainty, financial planning strategies help you be proactive in protecting your family and your future.
This particular crisis only makes that impulse greater. We feel even more powerless from the health threat to each of us, our friends and loved ones.
And, we may have more free time than usual to strategize about our finances.
Too often, the tendency is to sell stock. It feels good to get rid of something that has caused you pain. And you always think you can get back in later at a lower price - which, sadly, usually results in you getting back in later at a higher price.
But there absolutely are things you can do. Smart, productive things. Here are three (plus one):
- Re-balance. If your financial plan is to own, say, half stock and half bonds, you are likely "out of balance" because the value of your stock has gone down. So, sell some bonds and buy stock with the proceeds, to get you back to your pre-agreed target. You keep to your plan - and get to buy stock at a low price.
- Harvest tax losses. You may now have investments which are worth less than what you paid for them. If you sell and simultaneously buy something similar as a replacement, you will create a tax loss which you can use this year, or carry forward to future years, to reduce tax due on gains. It's lemonade from lemons.
- Consider Roth conversions. If you have investments in a traditional IRA, you can "convert" some into a Roth IRA, which will never be taxed again. You would do this if the value of your IRA is down. After a market fall, investments tend to grow more, because you are starting from a lower base. If all that new growth happens in a Roth IRA, it's all tax-free. A warning: this only makes sense if your tax rate today is not too high, and if you can pay the tax bill created by the conversion from an after-tax account, instead of in the IRA.
- And, if you can afford it, give to a non-profit helping people who have been hit hard by COVID-19 and the economic fallout. I understand: not everyone has the ability to do this. But if you can, please do. At Old Peak, we're fortunate that our business, while impacted, remains strong. So, we have made a series of donations over the past week to non-profits helping those who are suffering.
Stay safe and healthy.