The Miser’s 3 Things:
- It’s been a wild week on Wall Street. But don’t just look at the Dow. Know how it affects you.
- Don’t let fear take over. The time to flee from the stock market is not after big losses.
- Keep plugging along. Millennials have 30-45 years before we retire. There will be plenty of good days, and a few more bad ones, too.
It’s been awhile since we had a week like this.
If you watched TV or read the news online Monday or Thurday, you probably saw one number in glaring red: the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The Dow plunged 1,175 points on Monday, the largest single-day decline in the benchmark’s history. After a swing upward on Tuesday, another 1,000-point drop happened Thursday.
Last year was a euphoric one, spent watching our retirement accounts climb and climb. This week was enough to bring back an uneasy feeling. A feeling we millennials remember.
We were in college or entering the job market when the 2008 crash happened, wiping out 50 percent of people’s savings. That memory has been enough to keep some millennials away from the stock market entirely, and to erode trust in it for others.
Instead of letting fear take over, remember these three things and put your mind at ease.
Know your own score
First, you need to put the Dow’s drop in context. In percentage terms, Monday’s sell-off (4.6 percent) doesn’t rank anywhere close to the worst days in market history. It was much worse in 1987, when the Dow lost 22 percent in a single day.
Now, a bit of background about the Dow Jones Industrial Average itself.
Many TV and online news sites put so much attention on the Dow that it could give the false impression that it’s the entire stock market.
That’s hardly the case. The Dow is a collection of 30 major companies. It doesn’t reflect the entire market, which features plenty of small- and mid-size companies mixed in with the giant ones. A much better measure of the broader market is the S&P 500, but this seems to get much less attention.
Everyone’s portfolio is unique. So, if you want to know how this wild week impacted you, you should look only at your own investment account. Important: Only do this if you’re OK with seeing your numbers go down, and it won’t send you into a panic.
To be sure, if you checked your account Monday or Thursday nights, you probably saw a smaller number!
Just about everyone’s accounts took a hit over the past week — including The Miser’s. From its high in late January through Monday’s sell-off, my target-date retirement fund fell 6.7 percent.
But that’s much more helpful information than some website screaming about how the Dow fell by more than 1,000 points.
Now is not the time to sell
Those who are risk-averse know the feeling: anytime the market plummets, you get a queasy feeling. This is too much. I’ve got to get out, you might be saying.
But the day after a big sell-off is the absolute worst time to get out of the market.
If you sold after Monday’s losses, you missed Tuesday’s gains.
Many who watched their retirement accounts grow and grow over the past year — 20 percent, in many cases — got lured in to a feeling that the market would go up forever. By that flawed logic, it probably seemed like a great time to buy more shares just as the market hit an all-time high on January 26.
Remember the phrase “buy low, sell high.” It can help you make rational decisions.
Just like you shouldn’t allow euphoria to control your decisions during big gains, don’t let panic set in when there are losses.
Keep plugging along
The only average investors truly affected by this week’s plummet are those who were planning to take their money out of the market next week for some big purchase.
To be sure, if you were planning to retire this month, this wasn’t great news.
But for millennials, we’ve got 30-45 years before we retire. And you know what? There will be plenty more days like Monday and Thursday between now and then.
There will also be many more weeks, months and years of solid gains and compound interest.
Ride it out. Keep contributing to your 401(k). If you’re investing in a nonretirement account, keep at it. For example, if you’ve committed to putting $100 a month into the market, don’t stop!
A single day’s losses aren’t such a big a deal if you put those big red “News Alerts” into perspective.
Top photo from pexels.com