Strategies for surviving the volatile stock market

  • The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.5 percent this week through Thursday's close, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.6 percent over the same period. Early Friday, however, both were climbing higher.
  • Financial advisors say the general rule of thumb is to ignore the volatility if you are invested for the long term. If you need the money soon, the stock market typically isn't the best place for your short-term goals.

After a week of turmoil in the stock market, there's no doubt that many investors — including retirement savers — are biting their nails in fear of what's to come.

The two major stock indexes have posted stinging losses: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.5 percent this week through Thursday's close and the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 6.6 percent over the same period.

Early Friday, however, both indexes were climbing higher.

Visitors to Coney Island enjoy a thrill ride on the world famous 'Cyclone' rollercoaster
Getty Images
Visitors to Coney Island enjoy a thrill ride on the world famous 'Cyclone' rollercoaster

Financial advisors say the general rule of thumb is to ignore the volatility if you are invested for the long term. If you need the money soon, the stock market typically isn't the best place for your short-term goals.

These stories from CNBC's Personal Finance team can help you determine a course of action that reflects your individual goals, including when you would need the money you now have in stocks:

How to ride out a wild market
Even if you knew the stock market's gains wouldn't last forever, dramatic swings and drops can still be nerve-wracking. Yet steep declines in major stock market averages don't translate into dire consequences for your long-term investments. Here's what to do — and not to do — now.

If you're near retirement, here's your safe harbor from market volatility
Retirees and those approaching retirement can't diversify away all of the risk in their portfolios, but they can certainly protect some of their savings against market gyrations. Here are some of the ways to protect assets you'll need in the short term.

Investors in these popular funds should brace for a wild ride
Target-date funds — which gradually move from riskier investments to more conservative options as you near retirement — are the go-to choice for many 401(k) retirement savers. If you are decades away from retirement, your target-date fund is likely invested heavily in stocks.

Here's what you shouldn't do during stock market volatility
While precipitous market swings may put the Dow Jones industrial average in correction territory, financial experts say these kinds of moves are the sign of a healthy market. Pause before you panic and evaluate your short- and long-term goals.

Advisors say stay the course amid market swings
Even if the sell-off in the stock market makes you nervous, now isn't the time for panic-driven shifts in your investment strategy. Members of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council say it's a good time to evaluate your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio as necessary.

What millennials should keep in mind amid market volatility
The market sell-off may have given millennials flashbacks to a formative experience: The Great Recession. The drop in stock prices should serve as reminder to millennials that money you need soon should not be in stocks. If you're in for the long term, it's a different story.

The number of 401(k) millionaires hits new high
With each passing day of stock market volatility, retirement savers have more to lose — a lot more. The number of Fidelity 401(k) savings accounts with a balance of $1 million or more jumped to a record 150,000 in the fourth quarter, up from 93,000 a year earlier.

— CNBC's Jessica Dickler, Sharon Epperson, Kelli B. Grant, Lorie Konish, Darla Mercado and Annie Nova contributed to stories in this report.

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