Were you unfazed by the debt-ceiling debate in Congress that brought the country to the brink of default or by the stock market sell-off that followed last week? Did you figure these were just blips, and will have little or no impact on your investments in the long run?
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If you fall in the latter category, take this as a sign that your portfolio might not be the right fit for you. And use this time to devise an investment strategy that you can live with without popping Tums.
"If you were one of those who felt the need to bail, your mind is telling you something and you need to heed it," says Mari Adam, a Florida financial planner. "You don't have the temperament to be in the market at all, or you can be in a little bit but less than you are."
How much risk you can tolerate is key to what your long-term investment portfolio should look like. But this is often difficult for us to gauge, especially when the stock market has been performing well for a lengthy period. We get lulled into thinking things will stay the same, and grow more confident in our ability to handle ups and downs.
It is only when markets act up — plunge and languish for months on end — that our true stomach for risk is revealed.
If there's one silver lining to the market volatility of the last two weeks, it's that it gives us a peek at our real appetite for risk.
Financial advisers reported an increase in calls recently from clients asking if they should sell investments and move into cash.
"Investors want to feel like they are doing something in defense of what could have happened," says Karin Risi, a principal with Vanguard's Retail Investor Group.
But Risi and other advisers say that most clients, after talking it out, decided not to make any changes.
Not everyone had that fortitude, however.
Adam says a client in her early 60s sold $115,000 in stocks and bonds — against the Florida planner's advice — as the debt-ceiling debate heated up. Then, after politicians reached a deal, she wanted to jump back in — just in time to watch stocks suffer their worst one-day plunge since 2008, and the Dow Jones industrial average fall 5.75 percent for the week.
That's always the problem. Once you pull out of stocks, it's difficult to know when to jump back in.
"The lion's share of rebounds can occur in a matter of days or weeks…not months," Risi says. Those who bailed out after stocks crashed in late 2008, she says, "missed a great deal of the rebound. They weren't sure when to get back in."
Here are things to consider in determining whether your portfolio is a good fit for you:
•What are your goals? Is this money for retirement decades away? Or will you need to tap the funds for a down payment on a house in a year or so?
"If it is for short-term purposes — within the next year or up to five years — that money shouldn't bounce around a whole lot," says Christopher P. Parr, a Columbia financial planner. "You need to have it protected."
Instead of the stock market, money to be used within five years should be in a savings account, money market fund, certificate of deposit or, if you have a few years to invest, a short-term bond fund. Sure, you won't be happy with the piddling earnings, but that's not the point.