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The content on this website is intended for institutional and professional investors in the United States only and is not suitable for individual investors or non-U.S. entities. Institutional and professional investors include pension funds, investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, financial intermediaries, consultants, endowments and foundations, and investment advisors registered under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940.

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Retirement Planning

Bear Market? Advisors, You’ve Got This

Jan Blakeley Holman, CFP, CIMA, ChFC, CDFA, CFS, GFS
Director of Advisor Education
20 Mar 2020
3 min read
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In terms of points, the market’s recent volatility is unparalleled. It’s hard to imagine a time when a 300-point drop in the market caused widespread alarm. Not anymore! We’ve gotten used to hundred-point swings in the market, but now we’re seeing the Dow move in thousand-point increments. This market volatility is enough to drive unprecedented demand for antacids that’s as great as the demand we’re seeing for antibacterial wipes, toilet paper and bottled water.

Not surprisingly, significant market drops like these are disconcerting to anyone who has a vested interest in the markets. That means all of us. The challenge for you, as a financial advisor, is to convince your clients to “stay the course,” particularly when there is so much confusion and fear about there not being an end in sight.

You may not believe it, but you are prepared for this. Just trust what you’ve learned, rely upon the basics and do the following:

  • Have Faith in Our System
    The cornerstone of every investment that’s made is faith. Faith in the company being invested in, faith that the equity markets will function legally and properly, and ultimately, faith in our country and in our capitalist system. If we Americans didn’t have faith that our system were secure, none of us would make investments. In situations like this, where the outcome is unknown, having faith is challenging. Your clients are relying on you. This is one of those times where the faith you have in the American system and how you convey that to your clients will make a difference in whether or not they “stay the course,” or give up. If they give up now, they may be giving up on their future, when the equity market does recover.
  • Rely on the Cash Reserve
    At times like these, we hear that, “the market doesn’t like uncertainty.” That really means that human beings don’t like uncertainty. If your clients are calling, expressing their concern and asking for guidance, remember that they are reacting to the most primitive of all human instincts – fight or flight. Remind them of their goals, that long-term really means long-term. Most clients will be investing for decades. You’ve probably created a cash reserve or emergency fund in their portfolio. If they are thinking of selling their investments, remind them that they have that cushion and talk them back from the edge.
  • Focus on the Number of Shares, Not the Prices
    Access to up-to-the-minute investment prices and portfolio values is the best and worst innovation the financial services industry has ever created. It’s the best because nothing is hidden and investors can instantly monitor the value of their investments and gauge the progress they’re making relative to their goals any time of the day. It’s the worst innovation for the same reason.Because investment prices are changing so rapidly, it makes sense to tell your clients not to look at their investment accounts for a while, not because there’s anything to hide, but because over shorter periods of time prices are more volatile. If anything, clients should continue to invest because they will be buying more shares, so during the price recovery they will benefit that much more.
  • Take Advantage of Lower Stock Prices
    When we joined this industry, one of the first strategies we learned was called dollar-cost averaging. Now is a great time to use that strategy. Retirement accounts offer the best example of accounts your clients are dollar-cost averaging into. This may be a time to suggest that clients focus on the number of shares they’re accumulating instead of the price of the shares. The more shares they accumulate, the more money they will have when the markets recover.

We’re in uncharted territory in some ways, and in other ways, we’ve been here before. We’ve gone through recessions, depressions, wars, assassinations, impeachments, and everything else that’s possible. We will get through this uncertainty. There will be challenges and sadness, but on the other side, there also will be positive outcomes that are the result of keeping your clients invested. Keep the faith!

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