By Jon Powell, CFP®
It’s no secret that things in our world are a bit uncertain these days. It feels like we’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most of us dislike this level of uncertainty, but do you know what dislikes it even more? The market.
Stocks have been plummeting lately, not helped by investors purging stocks out of recession fears. On May 19, the S&P 500 briefly dipped into bear market territory of a 20% loss from January’s high. (1) Even the big guns were not immune to a drop, with Amazon and Apple posting declines, among others. (2,3) As a result, many economic leaders are predicting a recession in our near future. (4) We can point our fingers at many factors as the cause of our recent nail biting, such as rampant inflation, the Fed’s solution of increasing interest rates, and international unrest, but the fact remains that we have no control over any of that.
We’re here to help you take a deep breath and walk you through whatever our markets decide to do. Here’s how we are watching over your finances and taking proactive steps to help secure your wealth.
We don’t make investment decisions based on what everyone else is doing or what’s popular in the investment industry. Whenever we make planning decisions with you and offer investment recommendations, we do it with your goals at the forefront. When the markets get shaky, we go the extra step of reviewing your objectives to make sure you’re still on track and make educated decisions that are not based on panic or emotion.
This starts from the very beginning of our relationship with you. We use conservative return numbers when analyzing the potential outcomes of your plan because we know that corrections and bear markets will come again. We also use asset allocation “buckets” that divide your wealth into short, intermediate, and long-term strategies to help you make the most of a volatile market.
And in times like this, it’s even more important to have an emergency fund or a percentage of your portfolio that is either in cash or liquid enough if you need it for unexpected circumstances. While cash investments may not provide a lot of growth, having a cash contingency fund with at least one year’s worth of living expenses will protect you against having to sell investments at low values to free up cash.
Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you make a decision that was too risky for your comfort? Our goal is to help you avoid that feeling when it comes to your investments. Before investing any of your money, we determine your risk tolerance, the amount of risk that an investor is comfortable taking or the degree of uncertainty that an investor can handle. Like most things in life, your risk tolerance may change with age, income, and financial goals. We don’t want you to lose sleep at night, so we review your risk tolerance and how much risk you can afford to take and adjust your investments over time.
We also watch over your money like a hawk, and when it’s time to get out of an investment because the risk is rising, we will contact you about adjusting your allocation.
During bear markets, it’s important to remember that investors only realize losses when they sell, so it’s critical not to sell when the market is down. When you need to access your money is an important factor in avoiding those losses. For example, if you are a decade or more away from retirement, you can likely wait out a recession or correction and benefit from the recovery. If you need access to your funds in the next five years or are within your first five years of retirement (frequently known as the “fragile decade”), (5) a recession will make more of an impact on your money and your plans.
From a practical perspective, we make sure your portfolio’s allocation is set up with your time horizon in mind. If you need money in the short term, your portfolio will hold safe investments like cash or short-term bonds. Because retirement can last decades, you still want some of your money in investments that will produce long-term growth, but your portfolio will look very different from that of a 40-year-old in the peak of their working years.
One of the most important rules in investing is to refrain from making emotional decisions. It’s easy to get swept away emotionally when the market negatively wreaks havoc on your finances. But if you stay true to your investment strategy and avoid making decisions when emotions are running high, you won’t run the risk of losing even more.
Remember, bear markets have happened before and they will happen again. As long as you have created a disciplined financial plan and have a trusted advisor who is monitoring your money, you are doing your part to prepare. If you don’t have someone you can turn to when the market gets wild, we’d love to support you and help you build your finances for a strong future. Reach out to us today at 301-670-0994 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Powell is a financial planner and portfolio manager at Ferguson Johnson Wealth Management, an independent, fee-only fiduciary firm that has been helping clients plan for and enjoy retirement for more than 40 years. With more than 10 years of experience, Jon is passionate about providing personalized advice that puts his clients first. He considers it a privilege to carry some of the financial burden for his clients and educate them so they can make empowered decisions for their futures. Jon is also the primary author and curator of the Ferguson-Johnson Wealth Management blog.
Jon graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a bachelor’s degree in financial planning and holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification. When he’s not serving his clients, you can find Jon spending time with his wife, Erica, and their pets, a black lab named Nugget and an orange tabby cat named Kiwi. He loves to play tennis and golf and won’t turn down a good board game. Jon is a diehard fan of D.C.-area sports teams; you might see him at a Washington Nationals game. To learn more about Jon, connect with him on LinkedIn.