Dollars and Sense


As you’ve no doubt heard, the stock market has been going through a rough patch of late, suffering its second correction – a drop of at least 10% – in five months. The environment is one marked by volatility, uncertainty and fear.

Now, it’s important to remember that corrections are actually a healthy part of the market as excess gets shaken out of prices and stocks justify their valuations. And while having two big selloffs in five months feels fast, it’s actually close to historical trends. Typically, the market suffers a correction once a year; prior to the one in August, we hadn’t seen one since 2011. Declines like this are normal.

Of course, it’s one thing to understand that intellectually, but quite another to remain calm as your investments give back gains earned in recent years. Financial news can only hurt with that, incidentally. Jitteriness gets magnified in a media environment, so unless you’re concerned with where markets may go in the next hour, don’t feel like you’re missing anything if you turn it off. That said, corrections are rough to live through, so here are some tips to help you keep your head straight when markets drop.

First, consider the reasons behind the weakness and whether that has any direct impact on the investments you hold. Right now, just as in August, the big concern is that China is seeing slower growth than previously estimated. That has had a sharply negative impact on oil prices, and energy companies have led the market lower.

Because China is the world’s second-largest economy, of course slowing growth there will have reverberations across the globe. But at the same time, the direct impact of its decelerating growth will not be great on the U.S. economy. Not many companies have heavy direct exposure to the region, and there are even benefits to falling oil prices, as you’ve no doubt noticed the last time you gassed up your car. In August, markets fully recovered from the selloff in about 60 days, which speaks to how strong our economy’s underlying fundamentals are. In other words, you shouldn’t look at recent trading and assume that trend will be the market’s direction forever – that’s a bad plan whether the recent move has been up or down.

At the same time, you shouldn’t be irrationally focused on the long term, either. At Gary Goldberg Financial Services, our Montebello Process is designed to help clients meet all of their goals, for all the stages of their life. As an investment consultant, the first thing I tell prospective clients is to consider their needs over both the near term – the next three years – and the long term – things they’re thinking about that are more than 10 years away.

Any money you may need over the next three years should sit in your savings account, where it won’t grow much, but where it won’t face any risk. Your medium-term funds – for goals over the next three to 10 years – should be invested a little more aggressively. This will come with moderately higher risk, but also bigger rewards. Finally, your long-term planning should get the most aggressive treatment. It will be subject to swings like the market is seeing now, but also the far-greater upside the market has enjoyed over the past several years.

I like to tell clients that there are three components to a successful advisor-client relationship: service, asset allocation and market direction. While I can’t control the market, I can manage how you’re treated and how you’re allocated for diversity and risk management. Understanding what your needs are over the near, medium and long term lets me help you meet all your goals without falling prey to emotional risk.

Christopher Hanly is an investment consultant with Gary Goldberg Financial Services and can be reached at 845-368-2907 or [email protected]

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