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‘Waiting for the perfect moment may not be the best strategy’: 3 things investors should do right now as Ukraine-Russia crisis escalates

MarketWatch
MarketWatch
 2022-02-22
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TOPSHOT - Ukraine's Military Forces servicemen sit in the back of military truck in the Donetsk region town of Avdiivka, on the eastern Ukraine front-line with Russia-backed separatists on February 21, 2022. - The rebel leaders of east Ukraine's two self-proclaimed republics asked Russian President to recognise the independence of their breakaway territories in a coordinated appeal on February 21. (Photo by Aleksey Filippov / AFP) (Photo by ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP via Getty Images) By aleksey filippov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
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Americans woke up after a three-day weekend to more market turmoil as the Ukraine-Russian crisis escalates.

In many ways, it was a replay of what investors have seen with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) the S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq Composite (COMP) in recent months — another major disruption to global stock markets.

U.S. stock markets closed sharply down on Tuesday. The latest stock-market turmoil has come as markets have attempted to recalibrate amid policy changes at the Federal Reserve, record-high levels of inflation.

It’s clear that the recent spate of market weakness has unsettled many investors. Among the most popular searches on Google in recent days have been questions like “Is the market going to crash?”

Financial experts advise staying cool and not getting caught up in the international diplomatic drama. As Pepperstone’s head of research, Chris Weston, wrote , “Trading in a headline-driven market is not for everyone, it requires a dedication to being in front of the screens, an understanding of what is noise and what is signal and an ability to keep emotions in check.”

“Volatility and corrections are a normal part of investing in the markets,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

“With interest rates poised to rise this year and the Fed tightening what has been very loose accommodation for the economy and markets, the returns won’t come as easy as they have in the past 18 months or so,” he added.

MarketWatch polled financial experts to see what advice they had for Americans nervously checking the status of the IRAs and Robinhood

(HOOD) accounts. Here are their top tips on what to do in this latest downturn: Take a lesson from March 2020

The most important advice, according to McBride, is literally to do nothing, and don’t panic. And here’s far from the only financial expert to suggest that.

“Typically in situations where the stock market is in a slump or where it’s behaving erratically, the best course of action is often to just leave your money where it’s at,” said Jacob Channel, senior economic analyst at LendingTree (TREE)

Never sell in a loss. For people who are invested in index funds or stable companies, in all likelihood, their investments will rebound.

‘The best course of action is often to just leave your money where it’s at.’ — Jacob Channel, senior economic analyst at LendingTree

Don’t believe him? Recent history should offer some comfort. The markets fell sharply at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears of a prolonged recession. They didn’t stay low for long, though.

“Following that sell-off, the market rebounded spectacularly and the S&P 500 is currently sitting at a near record high — even when taking into account its recent decline,” Channel said.

Review your investment plan

For most investors, the money they have in the market — either through retirement accounts or individual investments — is intended for long-term purposes. So short-term fluctuations shouldn’t change one’s strategy a whole lot.

Still, financial experts said this is a good time to review things to make sure your money is working for you. Multiple financial planners suggested rebalancing your portfolio.

“A market downturn is a great opportunity to look at your investments to see if they still reflect your target allocation,” said David Haas, president of Cereus Financial Advisors in New Jersey.

It’s natural to see your portfolio allocation drift when stocks are falling and bonds are rising. Getting back on target is key. Doing this means you’ll be selling what’s high and buying what’s low, said Mark Ziety, executive director of WisMed Financial, an advisory firm based in Wisconsin.

Similarly, now is a good time to review the diversity of one’s portfolio. Are you too geared toward growth funds? Do you have exposure to emerging markets?

Now might also be the time to do a Roth conversion, if that was something you were interested in, Ziety said. “When markets are down, more shares can be converted from pretax to tax free for the same tax cost,” he noted.

Put your cash to work

A common aphorism among financial whizzes is to buy the dip. In other words, think of the stock market being discounted right now.

“Depending on your age and time horizon, this may be a time to buy into the market while it is on sale,” said Charles B. Sachs, director of planning and chief compliance officer at Kaufman Rossin Wealth, a national accounting and investment advisory firm.

If you have extra money that you can invest, do not sweat the timing too much.

“You likely won’t catch the market at its best rock-bottom price, so if you want to invest during a downturn, waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ may not be the best strategy,” said Alana Benson, investing spokesperson at personal-finance website NerdWallet.

In the meantime, the Ukraine-Russian conflict may get worse before it gets better. Sonia Mycak,  Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies, told CNBC on Tuesday that the risk of a full-scale invasion by Russia is “very, very high,” and said the slow annexation of the Ukraine has been going on for eight years.

“That is the danger at this point — that the so-called recognition of independent regions in Ukraine is just an excuse to enter with even more military force than he has already done so to this point, and then incorporate those territories into the Russian Federation, thereby annexing them,” she said.

(This story was updated on Feb. 22, 2022.)

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