DALLAS- Long-term retirement investors should keep their focus on their goals, and not on short-term market fluctuations, including even the recent Sept. 15 sell-off that resulted in the single worst trading day since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bad news in the financial services sector of the market-the bankruptcy filing of investment bank Lehman Brothers, the purchase by Bank of America of Merrill Lynch, and reported cash problems for insurance giant AIG-led jittery investors to flee stocks and caused the market’s drop. While the 500-plus point drop in the Dow Jones Industrials was significant, there was a modest re-bound on Tuesday, Sept. 16. Also, the Federal Reserve announced Sept. 16 that it would lend up to $85 billion to AIG to protect the financial system.
“Certainly, many investors are alarmed by what happened with the markets Monday,” said Rodric E. Cummins chief investment officer of GuideStone Financial Resources. “The important thing for investors is to remain calm, consider your financial goals and not to let your emotions guide investment decisions.”
GuideStone continues to stress important principles for navigating today’s troubled markets:
1. Always focus on your objectives, not your emotions.
Specifically regarding retirement participants, these assets are to serve needs for a long period of time. Make sure your objectives and actions are consistent with your time horizon. Participants can periodically review their risk tolerance by utilizing GuideStone’s Investor Profile Quiz, found in the Fund Choices booklet and on GuideStone’s Web site at www.GuideStone.org. Participants also may request a copy of Fund Choices by calling GuideStone’s Customer Relations specialists at 888/98-GUIDE (888/984-8433).
Consider that over long time periods, the stock market has been friendly, yielding many more positive returns than negative ones.
2. Avoid making impulsive decisions.
Guard against making ad hoc changes in your portfolio. Making changes based on short-term market movements is almost a guarantee for failure as it promotes “buying high and selling low.”
The performance of your account moving forward will be determined based on results of the financial markets in the future, not the past. Selling today cannot avoid yesterday’s losses in a down market. Likewise, in an up market, you cannot buy yesterday’s performance by investing in the hottest fund.
If you absolutely have to make changes in your portfolio, consider making them in small increments. This allows you to dollar cost average and gives you time to more seriously consider your actions.
Getting out of the market during roller-coaster rides is seldom a smart move.
3. Don’t count your losses.
Tallying up how much has been lost in your account serves no purpose. If you want to measure the progress/status of your investment account, focus on the gains realized in the equity (stock) markets over longer periods of time.
Market volatility and indiscriminate selling of assets by others often creates investment opportunities that can be captured by insightful investors whose long-term financial objectives are properly tuned to long-term investment strategies. Consistent contribution to a retirement plan affords investors a systematic way of taking advantage of investment opportunities as markets ebb and flow.
4. Maintain realistic expectations about market behavior.
Financial markets move up and down over time in response to social, political and economic events. Further, equity investments are by nature more volatile than other asset classes such as cash and bonds. Equity investors should be able to accept significant short-term fluctuations in the value of their portfolios.
“Markets negatively react to uncertainty,” Cummins said. “As situations begin to return to normal, we expect to see the markets stabilize and, if history is any guide, begin to return to profitability.”
Investors may still be confused. GuideStone offers a simplified approach to investing over the long-haul. That’s why GuideStone Funds launched a new series of mutual funds, the MyDestination FundsTM. These funds are date target or life cycle funds which are diversified “funds-of-funds” that have an asset allocation that gradually becomes more conservative as you approach and move through retirement. You simply choose the fund closest to your retirement date, make appropriate contributions, and the asset allocation is adjusted to become more conservative as you approach that retirement date.