How to counter a bear market

Younger investors may see the stock’s sharp drop this year as a buying opportunity. Older investors may not wait for a recovery.

This is not a bear market; these are two bear markets.

One of them threatens young investors who are still in the savings stage. The other torments those who are retired or close to it.

For people who are still in top earning, this bear market is likely to be both bullish in the long term and painful in the short term. For older investors, the decline is potentially devastating.

With the Federal Reserve recently raising interest rates by 0.75 percentage points and inflation hitting nearly 9%, US equities are down 22% this year; bonds fell 11%. Recovery may take longer than some old investors have.

How well you get out of this downturn depends partly on how broad your mind is, but more importantly, how you respond. It’s human to feel like you need to sell something, anything, right now before your remaining wealth is blown to smithereens. It is also human to freeze, paralyzed by the fear that any action you take will only make things worse.

Some brave investors will even see this drop as a chance to buy more assets at lower prices. Others are happy to make decent cash returns after more than a decade of near-zero returns. And it’s important to remember that US equities, even after this year’s setbacks, have still gained almost 13% per year over the past decade.

For almost everyone, buying or selling certain investments right now may mean less to your future wealth than a few sustainable behavioral changes that can keep you on track.

When the markets become anxious, it is helpful to look at historical precedents. How bad can things get?

Michael Cooper

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