Skip navigation

4 Good Moves in a Selloff

Was August just a prelude? Wall Street’s recent roller coaster probably filled you with fear for your financial future. Now, though, is the time to stay focused on your long-term goals. 

A correction means an index closes 10% below its 52-week high. This recent correction was long overdue. The last one happened four years ago.

China’s sputtering economy primarily drove the August drop. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is down 6.5% since mid-August, although it has nosed up from its low.

Some predict a 20% bear market selloff soon.  Fall specializes in market wipeouts (1929, 1987 and 2008). Very scary, but most successful investors separate emotion from investing.  “The investor's chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself,” legendary investor Benjamin Graham reminds us.

Here are four ways you can better control how you react in the face of any difficult market: 

Don’t panic. Since 1900, the S&P 500 saw 35 declines of 10% or more. In the wake of those corrections, the index fully recovered its value after an average of about 10 months. Even the sudden drops in the past few weeks are well within the long-term norm. The more you fixate on the financial news, the more volatile and risky Wall Street appears.

Access your situation. Are you honestly prepared to withstand further decline? Are you well-diversified and prepared for a potentially bumpy road – or do you need cash near-term? Prepare yourself and your portfolio to keep from taking drastic action at the worst time.

Review expectations. We been in the midst of a seven-year bull market. Results like that are unsustainable and your expectations may have become unrealistic. A healthy correction can resync the market for further future gains – especially if you want to buy into the market yet held off because of the high (and ever-rising) prices of the long bull run. 

Look forward. Stocks might of course drop, dive, stay flat, or even bounce right back. Two signs of strength in the U.S. economy have been job creation and housing. Unemployment stands at 5.1%, almost half the level following the 2008 financial crisis. Housing prices are rebounding. These are lagging indicators that have likely contributed to the markets’ strength over the past few years.

Also, oil is down nearly 60% from last year's highs. A gallon of gas averages $2.30 nationwide now, down from about $3.37 a gallon a year ago. Lower energy costs typically result in higher consumer spending, an example of a potential leading indicator in the economy that might spell future growth. As recently as mid-summer, increases in many leading indicators exceeded analysts’ expectations. How future readings react to the selloff, if at all, is yet to be determined.

No matter what direction the market takes, diversification, patience and self-knowledge are your best weapons against unavoidable uncertainty. Ultimately, a selloff marks a buying opportunity that pays off when prices go back up.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Sean Condon, CFP, is a wealth advisor and financial planner with Windgate Wealth Management in Chicago. Take our brief quiz to find out how much risk in your portfolio is right for you.

Sean provides financial guidance to people who are building a career and concerned about accumulating wealth for their future. His firm also works with those at or near retirement and in need a strategy for managing the transition from living on a paycheck to living off their portfolio. Additional insights on financial planning and investing can be found on the Reflections blog, here.

If you would like to know more about Sean or have questions about becoming a client of Windgate Wealth Management, send an email to [email protected] or call 312-669-1650.

Perritt Capital Management, Inc. is the registered investment advisor for Windgate Wealth Management accounts. Perritt Capital Management, Inc. is not responsible for any linked website’s content. All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market, economic, or geopolitical conditions.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

TAGS: AdviceIQ
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.