“Sell low, buy high.” It’s the worst possible stock advice – and it’s why you don’t want to pull out of the stock market when it’s down. Yes, Wall Street took a huge dive in September of 2008, and the world’s economy has been limping along ever since. Even money that had been carefully set aside for retirement wasn’t immune to this universal hardship. During the worst of the global meltdown, some retirement funds lost as much as 50% of their original value. But fortunately, a drop in the stock market is almost always followed by a rise.
In fact, the price of stocks were beaten to almost historic lows after September of 2008, and many smart investors realized it was the best time to add extra money to their portfolios. Sure enough, less than two years later, the stock market had recovered nearly all of the value lost during the 2008 plunge, and keeping your funds right where they’d been proved to be a smart strategy. Nearly every diversified mutual fund followed the Standard and Poors 500 Index as it retraced its way back up, almost to its pre-crash levels. And if you invested while the market was down, you could actually realize a 25% gain in just the one year between January and December of 2009.
Just remember that the bad times can’t last forever, and according to some industry experts, they’re already on their way out. The one man who successfully predicted the collapse of the real estate bubble – hedge-fund manager John Paulson – has just made some enormous investments based on his new belief, that the economy is turning around. In July of 2010, Business Week quoted him as saying “We’re in the middle of a sustained recovery in the U.S…” Instead of worrying about ongoing economic problems, he predicted “I think we’re about to turn a corner.”
The most important advice during any period of economic hardship is always: don’t panic. In fact, if you have any assets around that you can convert to cash, this is probably the best possible time to do it. You can invest that money in the stock market while it’s still low, and actually make the lousy economy work for you instead of against you. If you want to improve your finances even more drastically in short period of time, you should also think seriously now about cutting expenses and increasing your cashflow. But for most people, the big life changes like retirement are still far off in their future – so they’ve got plenty of time to restore any value that’s been lost due to the downturn in the economy.