An Investing Secret For When The Market Drops [iShares Russell 2000 Index (ETF), iShares Trust]

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October 17, 2014 3:53pm NYSE:DIA NYSE:IWM

investBack in August, I wrote a piece called “Why Cash is Not a Strategy.” I confessed then that like many people, I was sitting on more cash than I knew was good for me. Well, here’s an addendum: I’ve started moving off the sidelines.

Yesterday I rode the market roller coaster with countless other investors, wondering how low it would go and how to react. Shock set in when the 10-year Treasury yield – a key economic indicator – dipped below 2%.  Practicing what I preach, I decided to take the cash I’d been keeping on the sidelines and bought in when I saw the Dow drop 245 points.  But it wasn’t easy particularly as I watched the images of red faced traders trying to make it through what turned out to be one of the worst days in the market in the last 4 years. My stomach flipped again when I saw the market had dipped further down 460 points and I thought should I have waited a little bit longer? When all was said and done, however, I felt secure in my decision to take action and I know I’ll hold what I bought for the next 20 years. Not a bad result for a three-hour emotional roller coaster.

Of course, investing is an intensely personal decision, based on your own goals, age, risk tolerance, and so forth. But I do think that bursts of volatility are “teachable moments” about your emotional motivators and ways to potentially overcome them. Here are a few ideas to think about:

This is what buying low feels like

Buying when the market is dropping can be intimidating. It requires jumping in when everyone is selling.  This is especially daunting for an investor just starting to test the waters and getting acquainted with the market. But think of it this way: buying on market dips is similar to buying something on sale. You’ve wanted it for a while, you know it is worth more than the sticker price and you’re getting a big discount. If we apply this principle to the market, it is the working definition of “buying low, selling high”. Taking a contrarian action is essentially what buying low means.

It’s a good time to start moving your cash

For those of you (or us) sitting in cash, a selloff may be the perfect opportunity to dive in at the right price. We can take an example from the playbook of savvy investors. BlackRock data indicates that when the market dipped yesterday, a number of them bought in, putting their money into core exchange traded funds (ETFs) to the tune of more than $2B*. These key players know how and where to seek value – you may want to follow their lead.

Be prepared for more

Getting into the habit of buying in when the market hits a bump may be a good idea. My colleague Russ Koesterich highlights in a recent Blog post that volatility is likely here to stay for a while. We can see yesterday’s tumultuous ride as a lesson for the next dip. Stick to your long term view and don’t worry so much about the right now. Take advantage of discounted stock prices and hold on for the long haul.

What did you do when the market dipped? Did you head for the hills? Share your stories with us.

*Data based on U.S.-domiciled iShares ETFs, which brought in more than $2B at end of day October 15, 2014.

Heather Pelant is Head of Personal Investing. She is a regular contributor to The Blog and you can find more of her posts here.

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