The market appears to be crashing (in an orderly way) as I write this.
On the NYSE, New Highs = 1, New Lows = 1000. The VIX is over 55. Our MarketPsych Fear index is the highest ever.
If you're an active investor, what should you do?
Here's an NPR Marketplace interview with me about this.
1. First take a deep breath.
2. If you can't think clearly: go exercise, change your pace, play with your dog.
2. Now orient to where prices currently are. Forget about where you bought a position, or how much it is down. Right now, prices are what they are. And the first source of mistakes is being unable to come to terms with where things are right now.
3. Now, if your holdings are still hurting you, then take some action. You can't think clealy until you stop the bleeding. That doesn't mean sell everything. That means consider selling a small portion of a very painful position to relieve the pressure.
4. But now come back and consider that this is a historic time to find bargains in the market.
For example, if you believe that financial catastrophe is coming (and you have logical reasons for believing this), then gold is usually a good bet. Recently gold mining stocks have fallen in tandem with other stocks (yet their profits will be greater in an inflationary environment).
If you believe deflation is coming, consider this statement: "During deflationary environments, equities have performed poorly; however, high-quality fixed income has performed well." This powerpoint is a primer on managing investments during deflationary and inflationary environments.
Keep in mind that the best investments going forward will often be in stocks that you probably haven't heard of. And corporate bonds may perform better than stocks.
A stock screen looking for companies with high cash levels (and little debt) is sure to find some great opportunities in both stocks and bonds.
Distressed debt and preferred stocks currently have high yields, and you are likely to be very happy about owning these going forward. Also consider convertible bonds. A bond screener (such as at Yahoo Finance), can help you locate these.
If you've ever considered buying Google shares, it's cheaper now than in the past 2 years: $371/share. And they have $12 billion in cash to use to buy cheap and washed out companies.
Tune in to your internal sense of balance first. Stabilize your mind first, and only then begin the process of sorting through the rubble.
In general, you don't NEED to do anything. However, sometimes inertia can cost you if you're not well-positioned.
And keep in mind that it's always good to keep cash available for bargain shopping.
Disclosure: I own several gold mining stocks as a short-term trade (but I don't believe financial catastrophe is coming).