Please read on. This is not the advice you may be expecting.
The Chinese word for crisis is a combination of two characters: danger and opportunity.
Many of you know that. I mention this NOT because I’m going to drone on about the buying opportunity: how the market is down, stocks are “on sale” and you should buy, buy, buy. Nor will I hyperventilate about how our economy is headed for disaster and you should sell, sell, sell before the market, down 25% at this point, falls another 25%.
The danger to and opportunity for your personal finances are much more profound.
The danger: that you will abandon your carefully crafted financial plan — the plan you made with a cool head, that took into account your long-term goals and your financial resources. It is the plan that carefully calculated how much stock risk you could take. It is the plan that knew a crisis was coming at some stage, even though we had no idea what the crisis would look like. It is the plan that built in enough cushion to see you through a crisis, even a long and deep one. The danger is that you forget all the hard work you did and let your emotions rule. That you sell low and regret it later, when the market rebounds … as it always has.
The opportunity: to hug to your plan more tightly than ever, knowing you can ride through this crisis. You have the opportunity to ignore the financial media, to ignore the daily market gyrations and keep your focus on your long-term goals, knowing the market will rebound eventually, and you have enough cash and bonds to wait it out.
Yes, this means most of you should buy, not sell, stock at some stage in the next few months. That’s not because “stocks are on sale”. Rather, it is because you have a target stock percentage and — with the market fall — you are below your target. “Re-balancing”, best done every 6-12 months, is not about timing the market. It’s about keeping to your plan.
And finally: if you don’t have a financial plan, please create one. You can hire a firm like Old Peak or do it yourself. This is when you need a plan the most.