For the first eight months of 2001, U.S. economic growth was slow, if not stagnant. Then came the tragic events of September 11, which rocked the economy even further and disrupted the financial markets.
How should you respond to this situation? Should you abandon your investment strategy? Should you get out of the market altogether, at least until things return to "normal"?
NO, YOU probably shouldn't especially if you're a long-term investor. If you are saving and investing for long-term goals - college for your children or a comfortable retirement for you and your spouse you don't want to constantly adjust your portfolio in response to temporary economic downturns. By taking a "timeout" from investing, or by selling off holdings and putting the money into "cash" instruments, such as money market accounts, you could end up crippling your progress toward your ultimate objectives.
No matter what's happening with the economy or the markets, it's essential to stick with an investment strategy that's designed to accommodate your individual goals and time horizon. If you do not have such a strategy in place, a financial professional can help you establish one.
Whether you're a rookie or seasoned investor, a financial professional can help you with some key areas:
• Developing a plan based on your unique financial goals. Because your needs and goals are different from everyone else's, your investment strategy must be similarly unique. SO, for example, if you want to retire early and travel around the world, you may need to invest far differently from your neighbor, who plans to work until 70 and then pursue hobbies around the house. A financial professional can help you craft a plan based on your individual goals.
• Choosing appropriate investments. To implement your investment strategy, you'll need the right investments. A financial professional can help you choose the ones that best fit your needs.
• Staying disciplined. It's not always easy to stick with an investment strategy. Many investors are tempted to chase "hot" stocks or time the market. Neither of these strategies will be successful in the long term. A financial professional can help you stay disciplined by suggesting such techniques as dollar cost averaging—investing a set amount of money at regular intervals.
• Ignoring short-term ups and downs. To be a good investor, you must ignore or at least overlook short-term price fluctuations. If you regularly jettison investments that, for whatever reason, are going through a down time, you run the risk of incurring trading costs and sabotaging your long-term strategy. A financial professional can help you avoid these mistakes by showing you what to really look for in investments. For example, if you own stocks, your financial professional may stress the necessity of evaluating companies' fundamentals, management and competitive position. Once you're familiar with these factors, you can make informed investment decisions.
You can't change the economy or control what happens in the markets. But by sticking with your investment strategy, and by working with a qualified financial professional, you can go a long way toward controlling your own destiny. And that's no small achievement.