When you opened your year-end investment statements, you felt sick and were looking for someone to blame, weren't you? Everything had seemed so hunky dory through September. Then the rug got pulled out from under you. The market fell apart. Fourth quarter was close to a 20 percent drop in most investment categories and suddenly those visions disappeared more quickly than your 2018 gains.
You became scared. New thoughts started appearing: We have to tighten the belt. We have to get out of the market. We have to get healthy because we are going to need to work a heck of a lot longer than we had hoped.
Your January statements arrived and lo and behold, you are feeling better. Thoughts again shifted: We may not be able to redo the kitchen, but we probably can upgrade the bathroom.
Does this sound familiar? You are not alone. So what gives? And what now?
Here is the most important thing you can do: Get a grip. If your emotions are driving your investment behavior, then you may always be unhappier and poorer.
If you didn't blow out of everything in December because you were sure of the "guess it didn't arrive yet" apocalypse, then you have been given a rare second chance. So after getting hold of yourself, here is the plan.
Invest only your long-term money. If you know you are going to be spending the money in three or less years, it should not be invested. In today's environment, you can at least earn decent interest on your online savings accounts. But if you have at least three years, then an appropriate investment strategy tied to your risk capacity and tolerance is needed.
Rebalance your portfolio at least twice a year. If you had been rebalancing, you would have been selling some stocks and buying bonds in July, and in December, you would have been selling bonds and buying stocks. Things don't always work out that slick, but being consistent with your approach will increase the likelihood of winning from rebalancing.
Don't fall in love or despise investment classes. Most (growth/value, U.S./international, large/small) will perform similarly (not identically) over time but generally not at the same time. Keep peeling away from investment-class winners and adding to investment-class losers and you will decrease the volatility in your portfolio.
Fourth quarter was terrible for the markets, but see if you made it even worse for yourself.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive & founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.