5 Tips for Investors to Weather Today's Volatile Stock Market

As the U.S. equity market continues a string of volatile days in December, it's normal for people to wonder if their investments are well positioned. As of Dec. 10, the Standard & Poor's 500 index had declined 8% over the past three months, and without a change in course, it could post a loss for 2018.

SEE ALSO: Is the Stock Market More Volatile Now Than Ever Before?

My view, however, is that the recent market pullback is a normal part of investing, and it shouldn't be a cause for people to make wholesale changes in their investment portfolios. I continue to be optimistic about the future for stocks, but I also recognize that stock returns don't go up every day, month or year. Corrections and even bear markets are normal.

For investors who are accumulating money for retirement, stock price declines can be an opportunity to buy stocks at lower prices. For those who are not in the accumulation phase, it's a good time to review your current investments and adjust your portfolio to fit your tolerance for risk. We don't know how the market will react to a variety of upcoming events -- possible new Federal Reserve interest rate hikes next week, guidance for future rate hikes and the ongoing battle over tariffs -- so we continue to have a diversified portfolio governing our clients' investment strategies.

Investors, regardless of their risk tolerance, should focus on their long-term goals. Here are five recommendations that can help guide you to make the right investment decisions to meet your needs:

1. For starters, don't panic.

Making drastic changes to your investment portfolio -- like moving most or all of your investment accounts into cash -- may feel like the safe decision now, but such emotionally driven decisions are almost never a good idea. It's important to have a long-term investment plan that you can stick with through the inevitable ups and downs of the market. Otherwise you'll be subject to the whims of your emotions, which often leads to buying stocks near market peaks and selling near market bottoms.

2. Next, take a close look at your current portfolio.

Investors who are extremely anxious about the recent pullback in stock prices should consider re-aligning their portfolios by reducing the percentage of stocks. People with a lower risk tolerance will sleep easier and be better prepared if the stock market decline continues and turns into a bear market, which is defined as a decline of 20% or more in stock prices, if they lower their allocation to stocks now. Adjusting your stock-to-bond ratio by 10% or 20% is much smarter than going "all in" or "all out" of any asset class. If a portion of your portfolio is not in stocks or investments that can grow like stocks, in order to have enough money to retire, a person will likely need to save more money or work longer.

3. Be ready to rebalance.

Just as it is important to rebalance your account during a bull market to keep your stocks and bonds on target, have a plan in place to rebalance your portfolio if further stock declines occur.

See Also: The Biggest Risk Retirees Face Right Now

4. Pump up your 401(k).

For people working, set aside more money into a 401(k) or business retirement account before the end of the year. Those under age 50 can contribute up to $18,500 this year to their 401(k), while those over 50 can contribute up to $24,500. Regardless of whether stock prices are up or down, it's wise to maximum fund your 401(k) each year you're working. What you save can have a much greater impact on your ability to meet your retirement goals than the returns in your portfolio. Saving more puts you more in control of your financial future.

5. Remember that you're in it for the long haul.

The stock market will periodically experience wide swings, but don't allow the daily ups and downs to deter plans to invest for the long haul. Continue to make periodic investments that will pay off down the road. Always remember it's "time in the market" not "timing the market" that leads to successful investing outcomes.

See Also: With the Market at Its Peak, Should You Wait to Invest?

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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