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What To Do When The Stock Market Tumbles

By Jason Markum

Stock market investing is difficult and dangerous in the best of times. When times turn bad and the stock market begins to tumble, the danger levels increase exponentially. Make the wrong move under these circumstances and your entire net worth could be wiped out in no time at all. Years and years of careful savings and investment can dissolve in moments, leaving you stranded and your retirement unsecured.

Of course, there are things you can do when the market starts to turn downwards to protect yourself and your investment portfolio from being ravished and destroyed. That is exactly what I want to talk about in this article today.

Determining that the stock market has turned is almost an art form in itself. Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly when the stock market has turned because stock market volatility is perfectly normal. The stock market might go down today but jump right back up tomorrow. In fact the stock market may go down for several days or even several weeks only to rebound to a higher level than it was before. Determining that the stock market is in a new semi-permanent trending downturn or bear market as they call it is difficult to do.

But if you have determined that the stock market is in a bear downturn here are some things that you can do to protect your portfolio.

The first thing you can do is lighten your holdings as soon as you determine that the market is about to turn down. Don’t panic because the market generally won’t crash overnight. The bear markets trend downwards for weeks, even months… so you don’t have to feel like you should go out and sell all your stocks tomorrow. During this time, though, you should be sure to pay off any margin debt that you have and start to hoard cash if at all possible. Maintaining a strong cash position during these times can become essential.

The next thing to do is identify stocks that you own in your portfolio that are no longer rising. Some people suggest that you sell these stocks immediately, but I prefer to place stop-orders on them instead. When you do this, you continue to own the stocks but if the market starts to trend further downward your broker will automatically sell the stocks at prearranged prices spelled out in your stop order. This way if the market turns up unexpectedly and the stock starts to rise again you’ll be able to take advantage of it.

Next if you have excess cash to invest during the beginning of the market downturn be sure to only invest in cash equivalents and highly fungible items such as money market funds and treasury bills… which are short-term treasury bonds. The last thing you want to do is to be investing in stocks as the market is turning downwards.

Finally sell any mutual funds whose net asset value has dropped 5% or more. Many times it’s important to get out of mutual funds that have aggressive growth at their core because these are some of the first to turn down in a bear market.

The most important part of a market downturn is getting liquid, or at least as liquid as possible so that you have a strong cash reserve available. Why is this important? Because eventually the market will bottom out at which time you will be able to find incredibly cheap deals for the same stock you used to own, which is now selling at bargain prices. Having cash handy allows you to swoop in and grab a steal of a deal.

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