How to survive market volatility

Market falls are inevitable from time to time. When they happen it’s important to keep a clear head and react in the right way.

This content is more than 6 months old now, please visit the news area of this site for more recent content

  1. Rob Morgan

This morning's market falls in reaction to the plunging oil price, on top of fresh coronavirus concerns, are clearly worrying for investors. Outside 'safe haven' investments such as government bonds there have been few areas isolated from the panic. With huge media attention and minute-by-minute commentary it’s easy to be rattled, but it’s important to keep a clear head.

Given the difficulty of forecasting in an environment where things are changing rapidly and where governments and companies are unwilling or unable to update markets about what is happening to output and earnings, investors are operating without a clear picture and are unable to discern risk. This creates huge swings in prices until things become more certain. 

How best to react?

Volatility is an inevitable part of investing; a necessary evil and investors must always be prepared to ride the ups and downs. Keeping everything in cash is the most secure thing to do in the short term but keeping too much in the longer term it is likely to be a poor decision. Inflation could gradually erode its spending power. Through compounding more volatile stock market returns, and ignoring short-term noise, you give yourself a better chance of meeting long-term financial goals.

It’s often the case that the market falls more quickly than it rises, which is psychologically challenging. It’s particularly bad luck if you have just invested a lump sum, but there is consolation from the fact that time spent in the market is far more important than timing the market over long periods, so as long as you have a long term view you shouldn’t be too concerned.

Don’t make changes in haste

Selling out in fear can be the worst thing to do. Large falls can be followed by large rises, so you risk losing on both sides – selling when prices are depressed and not buying in until they have moved higher. Sadly, this is a trap that many investors fall into. In the absence of a crystal ball, keeping invested is often the best strategy, no matter how uncomfortable.

Daily monitoring during a falling market can result in an over-emotional reaction and make rational decisions difficult. If you have a well-diversified portfolio of collective investments such as unit trusts and investment trusts, as well as a strategy you are happy with, then a less regular (for instance monthly) check should be sufficient.

Turning volatility to your advantage

If you have been keeping some cash in reserve, market volatility could be an opportunity to consider investments that you previously thought were too expensive. Often the market overly punishes certain areas as panicking investors sell everything they can. This can present opportunities.

If you are thinking about investing but are nervous of the current conditions, one way to counter market ups and downs, as well as take some of the stress out of investing, is to contribute money at regular intervals, say once a month, rather than a lump sum in one go.  The advantage of dripping money into the market is that you don’t need to worry about market timing. The strategy can even turn market volatility to your advantage as you average down if prices fall further.

Get you plan on track

Sudden market turmoil after a calm period can reveal just how volatile certain investments in your portfolio can be. If this is a shock you weren’t prepared for it may be time to revisit whether you have too much in the most volatile assets. You could add areas to diversify – bonds for instance – to help smooth out returns, though bear in mind this may dilute the long-term potential of a more share-orientated portfolio and that any changes should be thoughtful and measured rather than made in haste.

When you invest in the stock market you are buying into stakes in companies. As a shareholder, you participate in the growth of the business if it does well and often receive a share of the profits through dividend payments. Sharing in the profits and growth of companies means your capital is potentially exposed to losses, but over long periods of time history shows that investors often benefit from taking these risks. Striking the right balance between risk and reward is something every investor must consider and revisit periodically – it’s important that you make the most of your money, but without losing sleep over it!

Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns. This website is not personal advice based on your circumstances. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal. Investment decisions in fund and other collective investments should only be made after reading the Key Investor Information Document or Key Information Document, Supplementary Information Document and Prospectus. If you are unsure of the suitability of your investment please seek professional advice.

More from author

  1. Rob Morgan

    The rise of giant tech stocks means greater ‘concentration risk’ for investors

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    The meteoric rise in tech stocks has resulted in an imbalance in certain market indic...

  2. Rob Morgan

    June's most widely bought and sold funds

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    We reveal the funds most commonly bought and sold by customers using Charles Stanley ...

  3. Rob Morgan

    June’s top and bottom performing funds

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    A round up of the notable market and fund sector trends in June as the developed worl...

Most read articles

  1. How to survive market volatility

    The rise of giant tech stocks means greater ‘concentration risk’ for investors

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    The meteoric rise in tech stocks has resulted in an imbalance in certain market indic...

  2. How to survive market volatility

    China will leapfrog the US in smart cities as well as 5G

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    China leapt ahead of the US in its 5G infrastructure technology – and it’s about to d...

  3. How to survive market volatility

    Central banks continue to prop-up markets

    Date: 9th Mar 2020 11:02am

    The tsunami of money has been unprecedented and is the main reason equity markets hav...

Investment involves risk. You may get back less than invested.