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How You Can Take Advantage of Market Volatility in Times of Crisis

By Robert Lindstrom March 21, 2020 Managing Money

You’ve no doubt heard about the recent market volatility related to Coronavirus and the reaction to this unexpected pandemic.

Nobody likes sitting on their hands when it feels like they should be doing something, but acting without thinking has never been the wiser path to choose. The challenge quickly turns into identifying the things you should think about doing, and the things you shouldn’t.

While it’s not hard to see that there will be an economic impact, it is important to remember that the financial markets are not the economy. It’s even more important to remember that time in the market usually works better than timing the market.

According to Blackrock, 24 of the 25 worst trading days happened within one month of the 25 best trading days over the last 20 years. Missing those “best trading days” can have a drastic negative impact on your overall return.

By trying to time the market in volatile times like these, you run the risk that you miss those days, thereby doing more harm than good.


If you shouldn’t sell your investments and try to time the market, what can you do? The first strategy is to rebalance.

Rebalancing your portfolio means to sell investments that have gone up to purchase more of the investments that have gone down. This allows you to buy low and sell high on a relative basis. It also maintains your overall allocation you decided on when you created your financial plan.

Rebalancing assumes you had the right overall stock/bond allocation in the first place. If the markets have genuinely spooked you to the point you are considering selling out of the market, or already have, then you probably didn’t have the right allocation to begin with.

Now is the time to revisit your “risk tolerance” since it is no longer a hypothetical scenario.

Time horizon is another component that determines your asset allocation. If you need money from your portfolio in the next 5–10 years, that portion shouldn’t have been in stocks to begin with because of how quickly stocks can go down.

A proper asset allocation requires that you coordinate your financial plan, risk tolerance (aka volatility tolerance), and your time horizon. It’s never too late to get this part right, but make sure you read the next section.

Beware the Salespeople

Much like the media uses fear to generate eyeballs and clicks, so too do annuity salespeople use fear to sell annuities.

They can play on your fear and tout the ability to “never lose money” and will have their charts to convince you an annuity is the greatest thing since sliced bread. We all know guarantees like that must come with some serious tradeoffs.

An annuity may or may not make sense for you, but don’t let the recent market performance make that decision for you. Annuity salespeople do not have to act in your best interest the same way a full time Fiduciary does.

A Fee-Only advisor has a legal obligation to act in your best interest at all times and can be a thinking partner in times like these, especially if you are navigating retirement solo.

You can learn more about the difference between Fee-Only advisors and “fee-based” here.

Tax Strategies Before Tax Day

There are a few strategies you can pursue before you file your 2019 taxes. If you have earned income, you can still contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA for the 2019 tax year.

Also, you can make Health Savings Account contributions if you are covered by a qualifying health plan. Other than the Roth IRA, these strategies can lower the amount of tax due on your 2019 tax return.

Refinance Debt

Interest rates usually drop when stocks do, and this episode has been no different. This means it may be a good time to refinance some of your debt, and here are the two reasons why you should consider it:

The first is to lower your monthly payment in times of a cash flow crunch, but this can mean you’ll pay more in interest overall.

The other reason to refinance is to pay less interest overall. Depending on your unique circumstances, a refinance may be able to do both. This short video discusses refinancing in more detail.

Whatever your retirement portfolio and financial goals, times of crisis should never be taken lightly. Consider your options before acting.

Download Robert’s ebook, 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Retiring Solo, if you’re on the path to retirement and need guidance.

What financial actions did you take in the past week? How did they impact your retirement portfolio? Now that you thought things through, would you act differently? How? Please share with our community!

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The Author

Robert Lindstrom, CFP® is the founder of Provision Financial Planning, a Fee-Only financial firm that serves people retiring single. As a Fee-Only advisor, Robert is only compensated by his clients and never receives a commission of any kind, which allows him to work as an independent Fiduciary at all times. Robert welcomes questions at

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