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Guest Comment: Don't sweat over stock market falls

Adrian Lowcock
Bestinvest
12 August 2011

With markets in freefall due to the eurozone crisis and debt fears in the US, including its historic downgrade, Adrian Lowcock (right), senior investment adviser at Bestinvest, says investors and pension savers shouldn't panic.

The last couple of weeks have been a bloodbath for private investors.

Unless you've been hiding on a desert island it would have been hard to have missed the ongoing updates of the stock markets and the sweaty brows of nervous stockbrokers making the news.

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But what does this mean really mean for you as an investor or someone with a pension fund or investment Isa? Well, here's why you shouldn't be sweating the big stuff.  

At the moment, there remains a lot of nervousness and we continue to see wide swings. However, the signs are things are stabilising around a new lower level.

Things look scarier than they actually are, the European leaders have indicated they will do everything possible to prevent a collapse in Europe. Likewise, we have seen similar reassuring comments from the UK and US.

For most of us, the moves in stock markets are too quick to either predict or act upon.

Serious long-term investors look for ways to make short-term volatility work for them. Historically, such periods have presented great opportunities for those fund managers who may have always wanted to buy into certain companies but were unable to do so cheaply enough.

Take your own advice

In responding to current market conditions, you should first review your financial goals and ask yourself for what your money is invested.

For most of us, such savings aren't being made for the short term, so the current volatility has no real effect on our long-term goals – except perhaps psychologically.

Next take a calm, rational look at your investments. You need to make sure they marry up with your long-term goals.

If they have become more risky recently or your objectives have changed, it may be time to adjust the balance of your portfolio.

Our own models tell us many client portfolios are now underweight in shares as they've fallen in value while less risky holdings have risen.

Diversification has protected investors from the worst of the falls, but it still allows us to adjust our weightings across asset classes to take advantage of the 20% discounts that are available in some areas as a result of the recent falls in share prices.

After reaffirming the best asset allocation for your needs, the next step is to make sure any fund manager you choose is the best of breed and that you don't pay unnecessary charges on the way in.

Should you invest now?

Last, be a contrarian, but not just for the sake of it. It's common sense to invest when markets are low, not high.

As always, there will be armies of investors who will be compelled to wait for concrete evidence that markets are on the up once more. And, as always, these investors will miss the boat.

It may take a stern stomach to invest when markets have already been so volatile, but drip feeding funds at such times will pay handsome dividends in the long term.

Investors who have a Sipp [a type of pension] or an Isa should take this opportunity to ensure they are maximizing their investments.

Because they are in tax wrappers there is no tax payable on changing investments so nothing to prevent altering your investments to take advantage of the cheap share prices. 

When doing so make sure you check with your adviser or pension provider what the costs of changing investments are. 

If you have an adviser ask them what the fund managers are saying and doing. But most importantly, make sure you speak to your adviser when deciding what to do.

Views expressed are not necessarily those of MoneySavingExpert.com.

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