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Half of Americans see market swings as opportunities to cash in

Key Points
  • Some investors see market volatility as a way to get rich quickly, a new report says.
  • Trying to time the market often ends badly, experts say.
CNBC's Alpha Strategy Session on markets, risks and the economy

Recent wild market swings may not be for the faint of heart, but they are actually welcomed by some investors.

In fact, many view increased market volatility as a golden opportunity, according to a new report by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA.

Nearly half, or 48 percent, of investors said that a volatile market gives them an easy way to make a profit, the survey of more than 1,000 adults found.

In that case, the current climate would suit them well. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all had their best years in four years in 2017. But fears of higher borrowing costs sent the major stock indexes tumbling more than 10 percent earlier this year before better-than-expected economic reports and positive corporate earnings buoyed the major indexes back up again.

As of Thursday morning, the S&P was 0.5 percent away from a new high.

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

Investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and trying to time a volatile market with hopes for huge gains is a serious financial risk.
Greg Anton
chairman of AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission

"Investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and trying to time a volatile market with hopes for huge gains is a serious financial risk," Greg Anton, a CPA and chairman of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said in a statement. "For most people, seeking incremental gains over a longer time horizon is a safer, more sustainable approach."

"Even though there have been wild swings, overall people are optimistic," said Lisa Hayes, a senior wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management.

Still, Hayes cautions investors to stick with a diversified mix of stocks and stock funds in retirement and college savings plans and other accounts to protect against losses and limit the downfall from some high-risk investments.

To further shore up their finances, those who are very near retirement or who have short-term goals should keep a chunk of their savings in cash, certificates of deposit and high-quality short-term bond funds.

And finally, investors should talk to a financial advisor who can work with them as they review their goals, reassess their risk and come up with an investment strategy.

Three in 10 Americans involved in household investment decisions said they never do research into investment strategies and potential investment opportunities, according to the AICPA report.

"Really sitting down and reading reports is tedious," Hayes said. "That's where it's helpful to work with a professional."

More from Personal Finance:
How to ride out a wild stock market
Don't let the market swoon derail your retirement. What you can do
This is not the time to go to cash, advisors say