When Is The Best Time To Liquidate A Long-Held Stock Investing in a Volatile Environment

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Investing in a Volatile Environment

The volatility that we recently experienced in the market is very troubling to some investors. Unfortunately, those investors who hit the panic button and sold off are recognizing large losses in their portfolios only to turn to investments that are perceived as safer places to invest.

The fact of the matter is that we invest our money to earn long-term rates of return that will exceed the rate of inflation and help us preserve our purchasing power. Historically, cash has been the worst place to invest over the long term.

Losing Investment Capital in a Volatile Market

According to Fidelity Investments, investors who sold their 401(k) holdings while the market was crashing between October 2017 and March 2018, and then stayed on the sidelines, have only seen their account values increase by about 2%, including contributions, through June of 2019. This compares with those who held on and saw account balances bounce back by around 50%. During periods of extreme volatility, wealth managers will often tell clients to stay invested rather than sell and lock in large losses in a seesaw market.

Building confidence in your strategy is a way to keep from making the mistake of buying high and selling low. Having the mental conviction to tell yourself that you have a carefully planned portfolio of high quality investments goes a long way toward getting through the toughest days of market volatility. If you are unsure of how to select high quality investments, consult with an financial manager or registered investment advisor.

The question is; how do you reach that state of mind? It’s not easy if you are the type of person that tends to get knots in your stomach when the market drops. We outline some steps below that might be able to increase your level of confidence.

Conquering the Fear of Volatility

One step you should take to better handle volatility is to make sure you have adequate cash reserves for a financial emergency that might arise. This way you are not depending on your portfolio for unforeseen expenses and your anxiety level will be lower, knowing that you don’t need to sell your investments when they have declined in value.

Make sure you have a mix of investments that fits in to your risk tolerance and time frame. This can be accomplished by considering how you have felt when past market declines have occurred. Your wealth management advisor should be able to provide you with a thought provoking questionnaire that will give you a score when completed. The score on the questionnaire will have a corresponding asset allocation that you can use to determine the split you will have between stocks, bonds and cash.

Once your allocation has been determined, stick with it. It is a good practice to reallocate your assets on a regular basis to keep your risk level the same. This means that a portion of those investments with better performance will be sold (sell high) to purchase in order to purchase shares in those that have not performed as well (buy low).

Other ways to hedge volatility can be through the use of options. Two simple strategies can be applied. One is the sale of covered call options against underlying stock or ETF positions. In this strategy you (the seller of the option) collect money from a speculator (the buyer of the option) in exchange for an agreement to sell your stock only if it reaches a specified price (higher than where it trades at the time of the transaction). The option must hit the price target (strike price) within a predetermined time frame (expiration date). If it does not, the contract expires you keep the money paid and are free to sell more options against that stock position.

The other strategy is to simply buy a put option. This gives you the right to sell your position in a stock or ETF that you own at a predetermined price within a predetermined time frame. For this privilege you will pay money (a premium) to the potential buyer (seller of the put option) of your stock. This strategy should be implemented in periods of low volatility, as the cost of the transaction will rise as markets begin to fall.

Buy With Conviction

Let’s say you’ve owned a stock that has done well over time. The stock has had a history of increasing revenue, profits and dividend increases. It seems like the stock is usually going up when the market goes up, only now there has been a big selloff in the market, and the stock has dropped dramatically due to market conditions. It may be time to do some homework on the company and make sure that the drop is due to just a generally bad market. If it that turns out to be the case, maybe it is time to buy more of the stock. Great companies often go on sale in market declines, only to have dramatic upturns once the market decline is over.

Speak With Your Wealth Management Team

You should also consult with your financial manager when markets are volatile. Investment professionals are in the business of understanding what is causing the market volatility and can often provide some insight. Often times your investment professional can help ease your anxiety and remind you of your commitment to your allocation and financial goals.

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