By now, you’ve heard — and perhaps dispensed — what appears to be the “common wisdom” about the recent market tumult: “stay the course,” “ride it out,” and my personal favorite, “don’t just do something, stand there.”
For all our industry’s long-standing concern about participant inertia, in times like these the inclination to “do nothing” is undoubtedly to the benefit of most participants. That said, one can well imagine that those who are turning to their advisors for help and guidance (wonder what the robo-advisors are saying?) might be a little frustrated with the admonition that the best thing for them to do right now is… nothing.
Early indications are that most retirement plan participants will — again — ride this one out (though there are some exceptions. But, hey — while the markets have your attention, here are five things participants can, and should, do:
Check your account balance. While a lot of experts will tell you to avoid looking at your account right after a big drop in the markets, if you’re making individual fund choices, it’s probably worth checking out how your account is currently invested. If you haven’t checked in a while, you might find that it’s gotten “out of balance” from your original investment selections.
Get started on rebalancing. While this may not be a great time to rebalance your entire account, you can start by changing the investment elections of new contributions, rather than transferring existing balances. It will take longer to realign the entire account, but at least you aren’t realizing those as-yet-unrealized losses.
Increase your current deferral rate. This is the biggie. When you think about just how much cheaper those retirement plan investments are compared with a few days ago, it’s hard to pass up that kind of bargain. More so if you aren’t yet saving at the maximum level of the match.
Look into automated rebalancing. If you still make and maintain individual investment fund choices in your retirement account, it can be hard to pick the best time to make a change. (Hint: a period of extreme market volatility is almost never the best time.) However, the vast majority of providers now have in place mechanisms that will, at some preset frequency (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annual), automatically rebalance those accounts in accordance with your established investment elections. It’s a good way to keep things in balance without having to worry (or remember) about it.
Think about getting some professional help. Odds are, even if you like keeping up with the markets, it’s not your day job. A good, trusted advisor is always a great option, but you might find it useful to look into a solution that is professionally managed all the time — such as a balanced fund, target-date fund or managed account option.
So, yes, there are some things you can do after a market correction, or even on a regular basis. And one more thing: There’s no time like the present.
- Nevin E. Adams, JD