How to take action on new year's market volatility

Amid another market rout, it's time for investors to look for buying opportunities.

Markets plunged yet again Thursday morning after a sharp sell-off in Chinese stocks prompted China to halt trading early for the second time this week. It's the latest wave in a rough first week of 2016, which had the worst opening day in eight years.

Advisors' broad advice to investors remains the same: Hold on.

"China devaluing its currency isn't an excuse to liquidate your stock portfolio," said certified financial planner Neil Waxman, a managing director with Capital Advisors in Shaker Heights, Ohio. "If you have a plan, stick with the plan."

Investors trying to time a return to the market usually miss out on big early gains, a costly mistake. But sticking to an existing investment strategy doesn't mean you should do nothing.

A decline in the market offers the chance to bargain-hunt, said certified financial planner Charles Bennett Sachs, managing partner of Private Wealth Counsel in Miami. "You're buying volatility in the markets by definition," he said. "Embrace it. If you don't want volatility, that's called a CD, and we all know where that goes."

(In a CNBC poll Thursday afternoon, 52 percent of site visitors said they were staying the course, while 27 percent said they were buying and 21 percent selling.)

Simply continuing contributions into retirement and college savings accounts accomplishes that through dollar-cost averaging. Assess your portfolio to see if you might benefit from rebalancing, or buying more of securities you think are undervalued.

"If you have surplus cash, look at what's down," said CFP Reed Fraasa of Highland Financial Advisors in Riverdale, New Jersey. "Whatever's the most undervalued, that's what you put the money in."

Even investors who don't like the look of the market or have a shorter time horizon for a goal may still find it's the right time to use that spare cash to buy something else. In recent years, clients have been more interested in exploring investments like catastrophic bonds and triple net leases, Sachs said. "Things that day in and day out are still paying dollars, irrespective of the market," he said.