From CBS Interactive/ By Steve Vernon
Have you ever opened your 401(k) account statement and stressed out because the balance has declined? Don’t panic. Instead, try these strategies to address the inevitable stock market fluctuations that will occur during your lifetime.
Workers Under 50:
If you’re less than 50 years old, “do nothing” is most likely the best course of action when market tumbles lead to a drop in your 401(k). One of the worst things you could do during a stock market decline is to sell out, locking in your losses and potentially foregoing the chance for future gains. At your current age, you most likely won’t need to tap into your 401(k) account for at least 10 years, so you have time for the stock market “double-double” to work for you. This term refers to two historical stock market trends:
– Since 1926, the S&P 500 has been positive in more than twice as many years than years with negative returns. To be exact, 68 years had positive returns vs. only 25 with negative returns.
– When the S&P 500 experiences a positive annual return, the magnitude of the average gain is almost twice as large as the magnitude of the average annual loss.
Since your investing horizon is 10 years or more, you have time to ride out stock market declines.
If you’re still concerned, you might want to revisit your investing strategy with the goal of helping you ride out stock market declines. One good strategy is to commit to only “buying low” and “selling high” rather than ever “buying high” and “selling low.” You can do that by investing in a fund that has a specified asset allocation between stock and bonds and that periodically rebalances its portfolio.
Older Workers and Retirees:
Older workers are in a different spot — they don’t have as much time available to ride out a market drop and rebuild on the rebound. But if you’re an older worker or retiree with a thoughtful strategy to convert your hard-earned savings into a portfolio of retirement income, this should allow you to sleep at night even during stock market volatility, such as the wild swings that have become common recently.
If you don’t have such a strategy in place and are approaching your retirement years or are already retired, you should shift your thinking from accumulating assets to generating retirement income.
Here’s one strategy that can work for many people:
– Cover your basic living expenses with “retirement paychecks” that don’t drop if the stock market crashes. Sources include Social Security, pensions, low-cost payout annuities, bond ladders and tenure payments from reverse mortgages.
– Cover your discretionary living expenses with “retirement bonuses” that have the potential for growth though stock market investment. However, be prepared to reduce your discretionary spending if stocks tank.
This strategy can help you ride out any market declines because you know you have money to pay for housing, food, utilities and health insurance premiums.