Still, market turmoil can be unnerving, especially since the beginning of the year is normally a time of market strength, said Raj Bhatia, a private wealth advisor at Merrill Lynch Private Bank in Chicago.
That's why he recommends that his clients follow a plan.
"Once you have set your risk tolerance," he said, "when you see your portfolio getting out of sync, you rebalance your portfolio every six months or every year." That way, you are buying when assets are cheap. If prolonged weakness in the stock market leaves you underweighted on stocks relative to your desired mix, for example, you will be adding to your holdings when stocks are low. You will also keep your average costs down.
With people spending more and more time in retirement, the need for a long-term perspective on retirement savings is more important than ever, Bhatia said.
"Where we sit today, the outlook still is for nominal growth of 2 to 2.5 percent. I would use that as a counterbalance to the volatility," he said. "Make volatility your friend by trying to rebalance."