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The stock market may be losing steam. Is it time to sell?

Key Points
  • A storm of threats to the market have pushed stocks into the red for now.
  • Here are some things to keep in mind before you rush for the exits.
fizkes | iStock | Getty Images

Your 401(k) plan may have seen better days.

A flurry of market risks have stocks in the red this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial down more than 800 points on Monday, or 2.4%. At the same time, the S&P 500 also shed 2.4%.

But as uncomfortable as it can be to see your savings tumble, you'll likely regret selling.

"Pain is a sign you're investing well," said Allan Roth, founder of financial advisory firm Wealth Logic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

If you can't withstand the bad days, he said, you'll also lose out on the good ones.

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Over the last 20 or so years, the S&P 500 produced an average annual return of around 6%.

If you missed the best 20 days in the market over that time span because you became convinced you should sell, and then reinvested later, your return would shrivel to just 0.1%, according to an analysis by Charles Schwab.

"For longer-term investors, we suggest staying the course if they can," said Rob Williams, vice president of financial planning at Charles Schwab.

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Over the years, the market gives more than it takes.

Between 1900 and 2017, the average annual return on stocks was around 11%, according to calculations by Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After adjusting for inflation, that average annual return was still 8%.

As a result, financial advisors caution against making any big changes to your investment strategy based any one period of declines.

One more thing to keep in mind: September tends to be a rough time for stocks, averaging a decline of 0.4%.

Unsurprisingly, though, the market tends to recover as we get closer to October.

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