These investors are hanging on while they wait for better times

Personal Finance

The U.S. economy is taking a beating from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and, like most everyone, you’re probably feeling some impact from the stock market’s volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged in March before soaring again, jumping 400 points on April 9.

It’s still down, though, from its high of 29,551 on Feb. 12.

Whether it’s a terrible time or just a temporary setback depends on your attitude. People tend to fall into one of two camps: “Time to sell” vs. “There’s never been a better time to buy.”

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Though there’s been improvement, the new market numbers are mixed. Yet some people — namely, those in the FIRE, or “financial independence, retire early,” movement — still see it as a solid growth opportunity. 

‘Financial resilience’ 

Matt Marberry, 29, says a set-it-and-forget-it approach helps him stay calm when the market is crashing.

Source: Matt Marberry

It’s possible people who are panicking aren’t as familiar with the movement and haven’t read enough, says Matt Marberry, 29, who works in entertainment and tourism in Orlando, Florida. Marberry is a small-business owner.

Less a proponent of early retirement and more interested in financial independence, Marberry is an avid reader of investment information.

Marberry says if he were brand-new to investing, he might think the idea that it’s time to shop for bargains is crazy. At the beginning of the market drop, his portfolio lost about 12% in value, which he doesn’t see as too dramatic.

Staying the course

Now furloughed from his W-2 jobs, Marberry has had to put investing on hold — but he is not selling out. “We are focusing on financial resilience,” he said. “The ChooseFI podcast has been a fantastic resource for this, as they have changed their focus [to financial stability].”

Marberry still hopes to max out his individual retirement account this year, and he credits information from Dave Ramsey and Bigger Pockets for helping him build up healthy savings to get him through a tough time.

“Before I found out about the financial movement, I used to do individual stock investing,” Marberry said. Index funds investing makes it easier to stay the course.

He added that, had he stayed in individual stocks, “I’m sure I’d be jumping in and out of the market.”

Past regrets

Around March 11, the market dropped below the “buy” numbers for Mary T., 55, who asked that her last name not be used, due to fears of identity theft. She admits the limits she set — the Dow Jones at 22,500 and the S&P 500 at 2,400 — were personal. 

Mary, a retired urban planner in Kirkland, Washington, based those numbers on how the market was performing in 2017, when she had just sold some property and had cash. After considering a stock purchase, she decided everything seemed expensive, even overpriced. The money stayed in her bank account.

Over the last few years, she waited for a bear market that didn’t happen — until it did.

“I missed all the upward trajectory in the last two to three years,” she said. “I figured, this [the downturn] is happy news for me. I can jump back in.”

Sticking to a plan

Though conservative, Mary also knows investing in stocks is a way to build wealth. She invests half in bonds and half in equities, with some of her holdings in balanced funds, which also contain some bonds.

“With the market crashing, it’s an opportunity to get back in,” she said. “I just look at how trends go, how the markets have worked in the past.”

“I would encourage people to stick to their plan,” she said. “No one can control what happens five years from now.”

In fact, she says, reacting to the numbers caused her to lose money.

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