The tragic events in Ukraine have led to more volatility in already jittery global stock markets, leaving many investors nervous about the long-term impact this could have on their finances.
Seeing the value of your pension or ISAs fall can be very worrying, but it’s vital to remember that panicking and cashing in your investments means you’ll turn paper losses into real ones.
Here, financial experts offer their top tips for weathering stock market storms.
1) Remember investing is for the long term
Investing in stocks and shares is always a rollercoaster ride, but particularly so now, so it’s vital to take a long-term view. If you have a pension, you might be tempted to reduce or stop your contributions, but this could prove a costly mistake.
Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, advised investors to remember that this is unlikely to be first experience of market volatility they have experienced. She said: “Anyone who has invested in a pension long-term will have gone through various bouts of investment volatility which will have affected their fund value. Recent examples include the pandemic, Brexit and the global financial crisis. It is worrying to see your fund value drop but it’s worth remembering that markets recover, and this will enable your pension to recover too.
“If you stop, or reduce, your contributions you won’t benefit from the downturn. There is also the concern that if you reduce your contributions during difficult times you don’t remember to increase them again, which can damage your pension prospects. Pensions are a long-term game and so wherever possible try not to be swayed by short-term market movements.”
Scott Gallacher, a chartered financial planner at independent financial advisers Rowley Turton agreed that investors should try not to make any knee-jerk changes. He said: “Volatility is part and parcel of investing and the price you pay for the higher returns that investments have historically delivered. There may be significant volatility in the near term but investors with a longer-term horizon should hold their nerve and batten down the hatches."
2) Understand that supposed ‘safe havens’ have downsides too
During periods of stock market volatility, investors may be tempted to rush into supposed ‘safe haven’ investments such as gold, but it’s vital to remember that these have their own downsides. Jason Hollands, managing director of online investing platform Bestinvest, said: “Although the price of gold has spiked recently, as it nearly always does in times of crisis, it is worth bearing in mind that it does not offer investors a yield.”
Gold itself can be volatile too, with demand and supply, the strength of the US dollar and the state of the global economy all affecting its price. It’s therefore important to remember that just because gold has performed strongly recently, there are no guarantees that it will continue to do so.
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3) Make sure your investments are well-diversified
Having a well-diversified portfolio spread across a wide range of different investments and assets is crucial, as hopefully even if some of these fall in value others will perform better, helping offset any potential losses.
Nigel Green of deVere Group said: “If their portfolio is indeed well-diversified, for the time being at least I would urge investors to remain cautious and consistent.
“In terms of what investors should do against a flurry of worrying headlines on major geopolitical issues, it is not ‘sell in a panic’, or the opposite reaction: ‘buy everything’. For most long-term investors, it is ‘keep calm and carry on’.”
If you’re not sure where your pension is invested, or whether your other investments are sufficiently diversified, it may be worth seeking professional financial advice. You can find a regulated financial adviser via the website Vouchedfor.co.uk. You can also search for an adviser online on the website Unbiased.co.uk. Both sites are free to use.