A question of balance
Political turmoil in 2013 has included not only the government shutdown and debt ceiling battle but also a series of tax increases and spending cuts that Wall Street analysts and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke expected to clobber the economy.
And while growth may be a shade under par, the stock market has roared, sending the S&P 500 stock market index up more than 18 percent.
The downside of such an aggressive move, though, is that individual portfolios can get out of whack.
A balanced portfolio should reflect investor risk appetite, with a healthy mix of not merely stocks and bonds but also the different categories within those broad investment classes—domestic vs. international, growth vs. value, high-yield bonds vs. investment grade, just to name a few.
The debt ceiling disturbance is a good opportunity to examine allocations.
"In preparation for what could potentially be a rocky month ahead, we believe investors should make sure they have adequate cash to withstand the potential upcoming volatility," Dean Junkans, chief investment officer, and Tracie McMillion, asset allocation strategist, at Wells Fargo told clients. "Investors may want to consider using (market rallies) to build cash positions if necessary and align asset classes to their target allocations."
As part of that rebalance process, investors may want to take a fresh look at international markets.
U.S.-centric stocks have been dominating the landscape for the past two years as Europe has meandered through its debt crisis and China's economy has slowed.
That trend has changed over the past quarter or so, with many foreign markets doing quite well. Investors can play global markets easily through exchange-traded funds that track market indexes.
(Read more: Debt ceiling flashback: The biggest decliners)
For instance, China, as measured through the iShares China Large-Cap ETF, is down about 7 percent for the year but up nearly 16 percent in the third quarter. An ETF representing the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China—the Guggenheim BRIC—is off 1.8 percent this year but up more than 15 percent in the third quarter.
"While September was a good month for US stocks, it was even better (for) international markets," Bespoke Investment Group said in an analysis.
Those with a shorter-term time frame have a variety of means to insure against quick market downturns.
The CBOE Volatility Index, commonly known as the VIX, allows investors to buy options that pay off in the event the market declines. A basic put option on the S&P 500—the ability to sell the index at a designated price point—is also an easy way to get a better sleep in the event of a near-term market downturn.
Patience, though, can sometimes be the ultimate portfolio protection.
(Read more: Get out the rally hats: Shutdowns are bullish!)
Incorporating all the lessons above—accumulating cash, not panicking and looking for underbought areas of the market—all can pay off in times of turmoil.
Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Annuities, said the clear signal from the markets, whether it's stocks, bonds or the relatively meager cost of Treasury credit default swaps—which protect against a U.S. default—is that a default is not going to happen.
"It behooves investors to take precaution," Krosby said. "But the overriding thinking is they want to take advantage of a buying opportunity."
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxCNBCcom.