Bear Market Got You Down?

Oct 30, 2022 | Uncategorized

By: Denise P.

Let’s face it, some people are more comfortable emotionally than others when it comes to the market fluctuating like the wave motion in a category 5 hurricane. Yes, everyone knows intellectually that markets go up and down, it is the nature of the market, but the reality isn’t always so easily tolerated. 

Fear sells, as the old journalism adage goes. Publisher Hearst declared, more than a century ago, “If it bleeds, it leads.”  So, now you add what you read and hear – the gloom and doom the media seemingly takes such delight in reporting in their quest for viewership (and ad revenue) – and that slight uncomfortable feeling you’ve had starts to become real fear. What does everyone know that you don’t? Will you have ANY of your hard-earned investment funds left, when the cranky bear eventually gives way to the charging bull?

No one has a crystal ball, and this certainly isn’t investment advice, but there are some simple steps you may take to help you help yourself through uncertain times. 

Fear is a powerful emotion, and it signals something. Listen to that fear and take action!

In the case of markets, fear almost always stems from a simple lack of knowledge. Consider these questions to help in uncertain times:

Reevaluate why you are invested where you are. Does this purpose still exist for you, or has it changed? 

If your purpose has changed, it may be time to rethink where you have your funds allocated. Do you need professional guidance to navigate some decisions and/or changes to your portfolio?

Do you understand the industry and companies in which you invested? If not, it is definitely time to read up on those areas and educate yourself a little more. Investing is ownership in actual companies, not gambling. Look at it this way – ownership. If you have a good grasp of the fundamentals, has something essential changed? 

If you are invested in an index fund, etc., do you understand its purpose, and is it being fulfilled? 

History is no indication of future performance (ever), but do you know what is normal behavior for these funds in similar economic conditions? Do you have a general idea of what behavior to expect?

Once you can answer these questions to your satisfaction, look next at the market itself. 

How sensitized to market movement are you, do you even know? People are quick to say “know your risk tolerance”, which is certainly vital, but what if your fear has less to do with risk tolerance and more to do with being sensitive to market gyrations? 

I helped my spouse desensitize to market behavior by tracking every week our portfolio valuations, while making no changes to the holdings whatsoever.  

Trust me, the first few months this year were rough. But, it was soon obvious that after weeks of declines, it took just one or two weeks of increases to correct for a lot of losses. By the time the Bear came charging at us, my spouse was confident enough to stand planted and wait out the charge without flinching. This was rewarded with some great weeks strung together, and the deficits became smaller rather quickly. 

We know the downs of the market will ultimately give way to the ups. Emotionally, that now matches what my spouse has always known intellectually. 

Then, there is risk tolerance itself. Did you consider the above, but remain fearful? Perhaps you misjudged your own level of risk tolerance, or that level has changed for you. 

When economic uncertainty is introduced, it isn’t comfortable for anyone, but it is FAR more uncomfortable for those carrying debt. Imagine for a moment you have no debt whatsoever. How fearful of the market are you now? Does it seem more tolerable? Then, your fear may be lessened by reducing your debt, rather than selling your holdings into a down market. 

If you have no debt, or debt is not a component of your fear in these uncertain conditions, you may well have had a change in your risk tolerance. You must decide what your next step will be. Investment decisions ultimately rest with you.

Lastly, if you have answered the questions, and are invested with your purpose in mind, you understand what you own, and feel you are not particularly sensitive to market movement itself, and you feel your risk tolerance is in check, then  consider spending more time in nature, and less time helping the media earn revenue. Remember the old IBM programming quote, “Garbage in, garbage out”? Too much gloom and doom will even make a pessimist out of a pollyanna. 

As I said, fear is a powerful emotion, and it signals something. Listen to that fear and take action! Sometimes, the action to take is no action at all. You decide.