What to do – and what not to do – when markets get shaky

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If ups and downs in financial markets have you second guessing your investment strategy or wondering if you should move all your assets to less risky territory, take a deep breath. Here are tips to help you get through market volatility and stay on course toward goals.


To manage risk, make sure your portfolio is spread out among a good variety of investments. Generally, a mix of securities that may include stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) have historically offered growth and a degree of stability over the long term. Depending on your risk appetite and an understanding of how they may complement your portfolio, additional investment considerations may include the ownership of real estate and other alternative investments.

Rebalance periodically

At least once a year, take a fresh look at your portfolio to make sure your asset allocation remains in sync with your goals, the time available to achieve them, your objectives for return, and your tolerance for risk. Over time, market swings can throw your asset allocation out of balance. When this happens, you can rebalance by moving money from investments that take up a greater portion of your portfolio than desired into those that could use a boost—to get back to the initial (or target) asset allocation.
Also revisit your asset allocation whenever your life changes – for example, if you get a raise, get married, have a baby or go through a divorce. You might decide to take either less or more risk with your investments. 2

Depending on the number of investments you have and the size of your portfolio, rebalancing can be challenging. For instance, how often and when should you rebalance? Which securities should you sell, or buy, to maintain diversification?  If you are asking yourself this question, you might want to seek additional advice.

Don’t try timing the market

Market timing is when you move your money in and out of investments to try and capture the performance highs and avoid the lows. Even the most experienced investors get tripped up by market timing. Avoid doing it.
If, for example, you sell stocks when they’re down, you may lose out on gains if prices go up again. Historically, the stock market has generally recovered from slumps, over the long term although past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Stay focused on the long term

Don’t make investment decisions based on emotion, and don’t let short-term volatility make you lose sight of long-term goals. Having a well-thought-out financial plan can help you stay on course during instability. Your plan should provide a roadmap for achieving a range of needs and goals – from paying rent or a mortgage, to saving for college, to investing for retirement – during both up and down markets.

Have a rainy-day fund on hand

Always keep tabs on how much cash you have on hand for emergencies. Having enough of a rainy-day fund can help ensure you won’t have to sell long-term investments during downswings. Try to have enough money set aside to cover at least six months of living expenses. Keep the cash in a place where it will be relatively safe and easy to get to quickly, like a money market account at a bank.

Talk with a TIAA advisor

A TIAA advisor can evaluate whether your portfolio is built to weather market storms – or if it needs shoring up so it can continue meeting your objectives. 2
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1 Diversification is a technique to help reduce risk. There is no guarantee that diversification will protect against a loss of income.
2 Rebalancing does not protect against losses or guarantee that an investor’s goal will be met.
TIAA products may be subject to market and other risk factors. See the applicable product literature, or visit www.tiaa.org for details.
This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.