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Financial advisors: Here's how to handle the stock market roller coaster

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Down nearly 1,200 points one day. Up 560 points the next. With the markets ping-ponging with such volatility, how worried should ordinary investors be?

Yahoo Finance spoke to a handful of financial advisors to find out how they are advising their clients about their investments.

This is normal: volatility is expected

If you’re freaking out about the Dow’s dramatic drop of 1,175 points on Monday, take a deep breath as you check the market’s historical data. This amount of volatility is expected and doesn’t come close to the severity of the stock market crash in 2008.

“Point-wise it’s the largest market drop in history, but percentage-wise it’s not even close, or even in the realm of one of the largest drops,” says John Hagensen, managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners, who also notes the unprecedented levels of low volatility that investors experienced over the past five years.

“For those investing for the long haul, hold steady and don’t react to short-term market movements,” says Julie Ford, founder of Ford Financial Solutions. When the market has a big sell-off, Ford reminds her clients how important it is to keep your short-term savings conservative. “What you do with short-term savings really matters. Emergency savings or down payment savings you plan to use soon, for example, should be in cash — certainly not heavily invested in equities,” says Ford.

No matter what age you are, Elizabeth Buffardi of Crescendo Financial Planners, advises her clients to save at least 10% of their income each year. And money you need within three to five years, should be in a savings account. “Yes I know, it makes very little interest. But if you are saving for something that is that close, you are ‘investing’ in the safety, not the yield,” says Buffardi.

Don’t get distracted by short-term losses

Stay focused on your long-term strategy. Ric Edelman, founder and executive chairman of Edelman Financial Services, constantly reminds his clients that successful investing is not about market timing; it’s about long-term strategic asset allocation. “You need a portfolio that you’re okay with through good times and bad,” he says.

While you might expect his clients to be scrambling for safety, Edelman says many of his clients are actually leaning into their investments to take advantage of buying low. For those with sufficient cash reserves with high risk tolerance, it could be a good buying opportunity, but Edelman says not to mess with your long-term strategy: “If you have carefully crafted portfolio, you should stick with it — you should not be making any changes at this time.”

Keep your emotions in check

Money is emotional, whether you have it or not. If your mood swings are in line with the market’s swings, Dan Kramer of Kramer Financial Group says to ignore the noise. An economic pullback has been expected since the election. Kramer says he tries to focus his clients on what’s realistic instead of worrying about the valuation of stocks. “What happens in the stock market today won’t matter. Think about what’s important in life and try not to let the emotion in the news affect your short run,” he says.

For the past nine months, Liz Miller of Summit Place Financial has also been preparing her clients for this pullback. “Two days of a difficult market is not at all a reason to panic. Despite what the market is doing, we talk to our clients regularly about whether or not they’re on track to reach their goals.” Miller says if you’re not comfortable with the ups and downs of the market for a minimum of three years, then you really have to ask yourself if you should be investing at all.

Jeanie is a senior producer and reporter at Yahoo Finance. Reach out by email jeaniea@oath.com; follow her on Twitter @jeanie531.


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