The death of a great First Lady transcends politics. Our nation just laid Barbara Bush to rest, and Americans have been deeply moved by her devotion to family and nation – and to her spouse, former President George H.W. Bush, now a widower after 73 years of marriage. Most of us would feel incredibly blessed to have such an enduring marriage. And it’s almost impossible to imagine what it must be like to move forward alone.
The first quarter of 2018 has delivered a clear reminder that the law of gravity remains in force and markets can go up as well as down. Intellectually, experienced investors know a certain amount of volatility comes with the territory and is nothing to panic about. But humans are emotional creatures, and it can be hard for us to ignore the twinges of worry that we often feel when markets reverse course.
Downturns can test investor resolve, sabotage otherwise solid plans, and just plain hurt. But experience and evidence are on the side of investors with a long-term outlook. Acting rashly is far more damaging to portfolios than maintaining rational resolve during market downturns.
Just as we prepare for any emergency by practicing how to avoid blunders, we can take steps to avoid costly mistakes when markets are in the negative.
1. Don't panic. It's easy to believe you're immune from panic when the financial sun is shining, but it's hard to avoid indulging in worry during a crisis. If you're entertaining seemingly logical excuses to bail out during a steep or sustained market downturn, it's highly likely your behavioral biases are doing the talking. Even if you only pretend to be calm, that's fine, as long as it prevents you from acting on your fears.
Every investor wants to buy low and sell high. What if we told you there is a disciplined process for doing just that, and staying on track toward your personal goals while you're at it? There is, and it's called rebalancing.
Here's how it works. Imagine it's your first day as an investor. As you create your new portfolio, you've got a plan to put a portion of your assets in stock, a portion in bonds, and so on. Assigning these weights is called asset allocation.
Then time passes. Because markets don't move in tandem, your investments stray from the original allocations. Even if you've done nothing, market shifts mean you're now taking on higher or lower risks and expected rewards than you intended. Unless your plans have changed, your portfolio needs some attention. This is what rebalancing is for: to shift your assets back to their intended, long-term allocations.
Apply These Financial Best Practices
To Ring In a Prosperous New Year
Happy New Year! You're off and running into a brand new year, full of hopes and promises to make this one even better than last. Working to energize your wealth management efforts is a great New Year's resolution for anyone. Here are 10 financial best practices to help you jump-start your prosperity in 2018.
1. Save today for a better retirement tomorrow. Are you maxing out pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan? Taking full advantage of company retirement plans for you and your spouse is an important, tax-advantaged way to save for retirement, especially if your employer matches some of your contributions. If you are 50 or older, you may be able to make additional catch-up contributions to your plan to further accelerate your retirement-ready investing.
We began our series on the ABCs of Behavioral Biases by asserting an important point: Your own behavioral biases are often the greatest threat to your financial well-being.
We hope we've demonstrated the many ways this single statement can play out, and how often our survival-mode brains trick us into making financial calls that foil our own best interests.