Preparing Your Portfolio During a Bear Market, Ep #107

We’re all surprised at the speed of daily changes the coronavirus has brought in our lives. Working from home, school closures, and social distancing have become our new norms. Stock markets have fallen in to a bear market in less than a month. Uncertainty related to COVID-19 grows daily, as we all know the amount of new cases are destined to rise.

It can be hard to find positives through the barrage of more disappointing news each day. But there are steps you can take to prepare your portfolio during this bear market. In today’s episode, we share 7 tips to help ease your worries during this challenging time.

Behavior Determines Results

We all feel nervous about stock market drops. Despite bear markets happening an average of every 6-7 years, it never gets easier to handle emotionally. During these times, investment behavior determines your returns more than the investments themselves.

Having an investment plan beforehand adds discipline to your decisions amidst the turmoil. If you’re questioning what you should do, then referring back to your plan will remind you of your highest priorities.

When you think about it, you only really have 3 options to choose from.

  1. Sell and go to cash
  2. Hold tight and don’t do anything
  3. Buy and take advantage of the discounts

The first choice has typically been the worse as you have to be right about stocks going down from the point you sell and you then have to be right about buying back to capture the long term returns.

To cope with this, we’ve put together seven things you can do to help ease your worry so you are better prepared to make more sound financial decisions.

7 things you can do to prepare your portfolio during a bear market

  1. Don’t react to panic – Panic is the enemy of a sound investment strategy. In the heat of a decline, is not the time to rush into irrational thinking. Even though it’s difficult to fight your emotions, your investment behavior will determine your return more than the investments themselves.
  2. Write down how you’re feeling – Do you remember how you felt in 2008? With the passage of time, our brains rewrite our history. If you write down how you are feeling now, then you can reflect back and read how you really felt during that time period rather than reciting stories your brain selectively chooses to remember. This will help you more accurately temper or accelerate your risk once things start to look up again, depending on your situation.
  3. Take advantage of tax-loss harvesting – Help your future tax bill by making some moves now. Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that is used by selling one holding that has a loss in a taxable account to buy a similar holding, so that your overall allocation doesn’t change. You can then use the realized loss to offset investment income (and up to $3k of ordinary income) in the future. Often there are a few investments that you may have been holding because of large capital gains. This may now allow you to exit those holdings and bank realized losses providing a nice silver lining.
  4. Roth conversions – If you were looking to convert money from a pretax IRA to a Roth IRA then this may be a good time to evaluate. With stock market values lower (currently over 30%), IRA accounts could be significantly discounted. If converted to a Roth IRA, the growth that occurs when the market recovers would then be tax-free. This maneuver takes careful analysis for your specific tax situation as the IRA conversion will be taxable.
  5. Could be good buying opportunity – This might be a good time to think about dipping your toes back into the water. The hardest times to buy are when you typically get the best returns. Depending on your cash flow needs, this could be a very attractive long-term buying opportunity. No one knows where the bottom will be, but by buying now you’ll be saving 30% from just last month.
  6. Focus on what you can control – You can’t control what’s happening in the stock market but you can control your spending. You can also think about other controllable actions like whether you have enough life insurance or if your estate documents in place.
  7. Having a financial advisor can help you – if you are struggling right now and doing it all on your own an advisor can help you talk through your feelings and use the tools you have in your toolbox.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Don’t rush into irrational thinking
  • [5:58] Record how you feel now so you can reflect on it later
  • [7:23] Take advantage of tax-loss harvesting
  • [10:25] Roth Conversions
  • [14:26] Focus on what you can control
  • [17:36] Having a financial advisor can help you walk through your feelings

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