Coronavirus and retirement savings: What to do with your investments

Don’t let a temporary situation affect your long-term financial security, expert cautions

The coronavirus outbreak has sent shockwaves through U.S. markets, leaving many investors concerned about the fate of their retirement accounts.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen nearly 30 percent during the past month, while the S&P 500 has declined more than 25 percent over the same timeframe – ending the longest-running bull market in history.

While the number of so-called 401(k) and IRA millionaires hit a record 441,000 as of February, according to Fidelity, it’s likely that number has been on the decline throughout recent weeks.

So what should concerned investors do with their retirement accounts?

“First, don’t be a masochist and look at your 401k right now,” Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, told FOX Business. “You’ll get your quarterly statement in April and that won’t be a lot of fun, but that also may be an opportunity to rebalance your portfolio.”

For most, rebalancing involves selling a little of what has done well and buying more of what has not, McBride said, the well-known strategy of buying low and selling high.

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For older Americans closer to retirement, the situation may mean something a little different, and the stock market tumble points to the exact reason why these individuals should have a diversified portfolio.

“Having the first several years of withdrawals bucketed separately in cash and conservative bonds allows you to ride out a bear market,” according to McBride.

As previously reported by FOX Business, it is prudent for Americans of all ages to have a financial plan in place. That plan should include having cash readily available in case of emergencies. It should also include “safe money” on which investors take less, or no, risk, which can be used on planned expenses. And money in tied up in the stock market should be intended to stay there for the long-term.

Having a diversified portfolio generally means downturns and losses have been taken into account and investors should not be making many adjustments or worrying.

Having a plan will also make your results more predictable, Greg Hammer, CEO and president of Hammer Financial Group, previously told FOX Business. That’s why it may be worth sitting down with an expert to proactively plan for these events, based on your individual circumstances and needs.

Overall, it’s important for workers to understand that, even though the market is extremely volatile right now, it will eventually normalize.

“Investors need to maintain their long-term perspective,” McBride said. “It’s extremely jarring but the situation that prompted this is temporary. Don’t let any short-term temporary situation affect your long-term financial security.”

And the good news? For those still working who have a 401(k) account, you are automatically investing every pay period and getting better prices than you were one month ago, McBride pointed out.

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