With the stock market struggling, it’s easy for us to think about not investing at all and keeping all our money in cash. I remember a year ago when personal finance bloggers all over the world were blogging about their success in the stock market, encouraging everyone to keep investing and talking about how stocks are the best performing asset class over any 20-year period. These days however, no one really shares their stories anymore.
So what now? Do we just stop investing? What about our automatic contributions like 401ks and IRAs?
Since there are only three possible answers to this question, let’s talk about all of them here:
These are probably the set it and forget it types. Some of these people might not care too much about their investments, only to find out at a later point in their lives that the majority of their net worth is made up of the investments that they forgot about. They keep investing through the good and bad times, which is exactly what we recommend here at MoneyNing. By the way, I kept my 401k contribution rate at 15% this year.
Decreasing the Contribution Rate
Many people fall into this category. They do it because gas has gone up, they do it because their homes have decreased in value, they do it because they want that new car. In reality, they did it because they are emotional and saw the great big fall in the stock market. They saw their investments tank and couldn’t bear anymore pain. Some people usually learn one day that this is not the way to invest, but most will never learn and end up missing the opportunity to create real wealth through investing.
Increasing the Contribution Rate
These are opportunists, and probably someone who don’t need the money in the short term. They like the stock market, and will try to adjust their contributions to take advantage of market declines. Eventually, they will be better off because they contributed more money than they otherwise would have.
So which approach did you take with this market decline? Which one would you take if you were given the choice again? If the answer to the two questions were different, is there a reason why?
Editor's Note: I've begun tracking my assets through Personal Capital. I'm only using the free service so far and I no longer have to log into all the different accounts just to pull the numbers. And with a single screen showing all my assets, it's much easier to figure out when I need to rebalance or where I stand on the path to financial independence. They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.