3 tips for handling market volatility

  • Don't get caught up in your emotions; stay your pre-planned investing course no matter what happens.
  • Look for the silver lining — during market downturns, this means buying opportunities.
  • Keep focusing on what's really important — family ties, health, etc. — no matter what happens with your money.
You can never really prepare for a market swing.
Lothar Knopp | Getty Images
You can never really prepare for a market swing.

During the market crash of 2008, many people's first thought was, "sell, sell, sell!" But maybe your financial advisor told you not to panic. Our financial climate is constantly changing, and it's understandable to freak out when stocks take a small dive. Here are three tips for what to do when the market falls (besides sell your stocks):

1. Stay the course. You can never really prepare for a market swing. None of us know what will happen tomorrow, especially in political climates that are unstable, so all I can tell you is to stick to your financial plan.

Don't get caught up in headlines or your emotions. For most of us, the emotional piece is the one that is the most challenging. It's easy to get caught up in your feelings and let them dictate impulsive changes to your plans.

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Your financial plan serves as your financial roadmap and helps you focus on the larger picture. If you have a solid plan, then you know that even a big dip in the market won't ruin your retirement plans. And if you have other goals, your plan will help you stay focused on them. By focusing on your plan, you can take some of the emotions out of investing.

2. Look for buying opportunities. Once you have a solid financial plan, then you can look for opportunities that fit into that plan. The upside to a volatile market is that there can be an opportunity to buy. The old saying "buy low, sell high" exists for a reason. If things didn't work out, you may have an opportunity for tax loss harvesting.

For baby boomers and Generation X, who tend to be more nervous in fluctuating markets due to their closeness to retirement, it might be a good time to review your financial plan and make changes if necessary. This could also be a good reminder that you should review your investments to make sure they are in line with your risk tolerance and time horizon.

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3. Focus on what's really important. It is easy get wrapped up in all the media panic and forget that you don't need to be thinking about your investments 24/7. The market is going to do whatever it wants, day in and day out. Focus on what's important to you, whether that is your family, a hobby, or taking a vacation.

Hopefully those are three easy things that can help you stay calm when the market decides to take its next dive. Make a plan, work to find opportunities and pay attention to what's truly most important to you. It takes discipline to focus on yourself and your goals, but the end result can be achieving those great things in life.

(Editor's Note: This article originally appeared at Investopedia.com.)

— By Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth

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