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How can volatility be your friend?

It’s been hard to know how to react to the recent market volatility, or whether to react at all. It’s enough to keep even the most seasoned investor up at night.

But we view these times as a natural part of the economic cycle—and the reason why a comprehensive financial plan is so important. If you’re properly prepared, each part of the cycle offers not just reason for caution, but for opportunity.


Think about it: Any time you get something on sale, you feel really good—you’re a savvy consumer, after all. That is, any time except when it comes to investments. We actually go out of our way to buy when the market is doing well—when stocks are more expensive. Instead, investors should look at downturns as a time to buy—when companies are on sale. For the longterm investor, times like these can create a significant upside when the market rebounds.


It seems counterintuitive, but if you want losses to offset a capital gain from the sale of a stock, your business or real estate, this may be the time to reduce losses from your portfolio and potentially reduce your tax liability.


Just like a car, your financial plan needs to be tested to see if it holds up under all conditions. Regardless of market conditions, can you still retire? In a down market, you always need a place from which to withdraw funds without selling stocks or bonds. Cash should be part of your overall portfolio. Taking a look at your plan and determining if it still works for you is something you should do with your advisor periodically, particularly in times like these.


If you fund your own pension plan, pay attention: We’ve all learned that dollar-cost averaging—investing systematically through all market conditions—is an effective strategy. But when you are presented with times like these, it may be advisable to fund your SEP or Solo-401(k) in a lump sum, at low market prices. When you have long-term investment accounts like these, taking advantage of lower markets can be a great strategy.


As we said, the key is to always make sure you have cash in your portfolio. That way, when you need money, you may not have to go into the market to get it. We recommend three to six months’ worth usually, more if you are already retired or have a major expense planned. In some situations, one to two years of cash reserves may be advisable.


But assuming your long-term plan is in place, and you and your advisor speak regularly, there is no reason to make drastic changes now—in fact, that could be detrimental. We speak to clients a lot during times like these, and one of the biggest conversations we have is about the quality of their investments. If a mutual fund, ETF or stock was a good investment last week and nothing has fundamentally changed, it is still a good investment this week, no matter what the market does.

“A marathon, not a sprint. A marathon, not a sprint.” That, in times like these, should be your mantra.

This information is being provided only as a general source of information and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual investor. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Before you purchase, be sure to ask your financial advisor about the insurance policy’s features, benefits, risks and fees, and whether the insurance is appropriate for you based upon your financial situation and objectives. Ameriprise Financial and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and CFP (with flame design) in the U.S. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC. © 2016 Ameriprise Financial, Inc., All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in the April/May 2016 issue of Worth.

Investing and the Economy

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