By Schwab Center for Financial Research
When a stock index falls by more than 10%, it is often said to have entered “correction” territory.
That’s a fairly neutral term for what feels like a nerve-wracking drop to many investors. What does a correction mean? What’s likely to happen after a correction, and what can you do to help your portfolio weather the downturn? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
What is a correction?
There’s no universally accepted definition of a correction, but most people consider a correction to have occurred when a major stock index, such as the S&P 500 index or Dow Jones Industrial Average, declines by more than 10% (but less than 20%) from its most recent peak.
It’s called a correction because historically the drop often “corrects” and returns prices to their longer-term trend.
Is it the start of a bear market?
Nobody can predict with any degree of certainty whether a correction will reverse or turn into a bear market. However, historically most corrections haven’t become bear markets (that is, periods when the market falls by 20% or more).
There have been 22 market corrections since November 1974, and only four of them became bear markets (which began in 1980, 1987, 2000 and 2007).
But what if it really is the start of a bear market?
No bull market runs forever. While they can be scary, bear markets are a part of long-term investing and can be expected to occur periodically throughout every investor’s lifetime.
However, it’s important to keep them in perspective. Since 1966, the average bear market has lasted roughly 17 months, far shorter than the average bull market. And they often end as abruptly as they began, with a quick rebound that is very difficult to predict. That’s why long-term investors are usually better off staying the course and not pulling money out of the market.
What should I do now?
Worrying excessively about a bear market is counterproductive, but being prepared for one is always a good idea. Consider investing strategies that potentially could help your portfolio — and your emotional wellbeing — in case of a significant downturn. Here are some additional steps all investors should consider:
1. If you don’t have a financial plan, consider making one
A written financial plan can help you craft an appropriately balanced portfolio. It can also calm your nerves and make it easier to stay the course when markets get bumpy: According to a Schwab survey, 60% of Americans with a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, compared with only a third of those without a plan.
2. Review your risk tolerance
It’s relatively easy to take risks when the market is rising, but market downturns sometimes can be a wake-up call to consider adjusting your target asset allocation. Consider how much loss you have the emotional and financial capacity to handle. Schwab’s investor profile questionnaire can help you determine your investor profile and match it to an appropriate allocation.
3. Rebalance regularly
Market changes can skew your allocation from its original target. Over time, assets that have gained in value will account for more of your portfolio, while those that have declined will account for less. Rebalancing means selling positions that have become overweight in relation to the rest of your portfolio, and moving the proceeds to positions that have become underweight. It’s a good idea to rebalance at regular intervals.
4. Take your life stage into consideration
If you’re a younger investor saving for a goal that is 15 or more years away, you have time to potentially recover from a market drop. However, the picture may change for investors nearing or in retirement.
Regular rebalancing and appropriate diversification are important for you at this stage, and your risk profile typically will become more conservative as retirement approaches. If you’ve recently retired and begun to withdraw from your portfolio, you also should be aware that poor returns in the early years of retirement can have a very negative effect on a portfolio; consider taking steps to avoid selling assets in a down market, such as reducing your planned withdrawals or postponing large expenses.
Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) Monday Morning Minute is crafted to provide decision-makers with important information about the economy, investments and corporate retirement plans in a format that allows a reader to consume the information in less than 60 seconds. As an independent, objective investment adviser, LRPC has access to many sources of research and shares the best and most relevant information with its readers each week.
Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, provider management and plan design services to employer retirement plan sponsors. The firm specializes in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) strategies for retirement plans and is a pioneer in the field. LRPC currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on nearly a half billion dollars in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the firm’s website at https://www.lawtonrpc.com. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.
This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, a plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.
Additional Important Disclosures
The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision. All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market or economic conditions. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is no guarantee of future results and the opinions presented cannot be viewed as an indicator of future performance. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses and cannot be invested in directly. For more information on indexes please see www.schwab.com/indexdefinitions. Diversification, asset allocation and rebalancing strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets. Rebalancing may cause investors to incur transaction costs and, when rebalancing a non-retirement account, taxable events may be created that may affect your tax liability