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Bear market or bull, investors shouldn't make any false moves

Key Points
  • "Clients are nervous about volatility," said Tom Stringfellow of Frost Investment Advisors. "You have to always look at your investment objective and where you want to be over the next few years."
  • Elliot Weissbluth says Hightower is looking at any potential downturn as an opportunity. 
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These forces could create market volatility

Recent market volatility may have some investors spooked — and perhaps confused, given the otherwise good economic news of late. But ups and downs are the nature of the investing beast, financial advisors remind us, and those with money in the markets, and long time horizon, should keep calm and carry on.

"The question of whether or not there's a bear market coming or not is really not the question an investor should be asking," said Elliot Weissbluth, founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors. "The first thing they should ask themselves is, do they have a professional giving them advice?"

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Working with an investment professional can help investors manage their emotions over market gyrations and keep their eyes on the long-term investing prize, noted Tom Stringfellow, president of Frost Investment Advisors, who described current market conditions as a "rolling correction period."

"Clients are nervous about volatility," he said. "You have to always look at your investment objective and where you want to be over the next few years."

Where you want to be, and not where the market happens to be at today, is key.

"Obviously we're seeing some corrections happen today … [and] obviously we're going to have some period in the future, who knows exactly when, when we're going to have more corrections," said Weissbluth. "The most important thing is, are you managing your own assets on behalf of your own sort of emotional state vis-à-vis the market?"

Bear market or bull, investors need to control their emotions.
Hill Street Studios LLC | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Historically, in downturns, "those who understood what they were doing and how to balance out their risk and didn't have an over-emotional reaction to the market place fared much better," he added. Weissbluth, for his part, looks on the bright side of market turmoil. "We view this as a growth opportunity," he said. "We're looking for opportunities where there have been dislocations of price, and we view these as buying opportunities."

Stringfellow doesn't see cause for too much alarm, at least in the short term, as all the hallmarks of an approaching bear market haven't appeared yet.

"What turns it into a bear is if trade issues escalate, if the Fed begins to escalate interest rates higher than what we expect, corporate earnings turn down dramatically or just investors lose interest completely," he said. "I don't think those are going to be the cases next year."