Important information - The value of investments can go down as well as up, so you may not get back the amount you originally invest.
Good investing is all about giving your money the time to grow. I’ve written variants of that line at least once a week since I joined Fidelity, and you’ve probably read it just as often.
And while it is absolutely correct, at some stage we all decide enough’s enough and it’s time to use what we’ve accumulated.
We’ll get on to the more general guidance on good ways to take ourselves out of the market when we need to, but a more pressing question, as the past few weeks have thrown up, is what happens if volatility hits right when we need the money?
First experience of volatility?
Record low interest rates, the longest bull market in history and new propositions like the Lifetime ISA have all pushed and pulled many would-be cash savers into moving up the risk scale with their investments over the past few years.
And even if you’re a seasoned investor, seeking a higher return than cash savings can provide at the moment, or capitalising on the government‘s helping hand into home ownership, means a lot of our goals will be tied to the market now.
If you find yourself in this camp with respect to your shorter-term money aims there are a few things to consider now.
First, don’t act rashly. Money concerns tend to provoke us into wanting to take risk off the table immediately. But ask yourself - where else are you going to put your money if you take it out? We can’t foresee the trajectory of the global response to Covid-19, or the market reaction so decisions based on fear won’t help.
Instead, is it possible to push your goals out a bit? What we are experiencing will eventually end and we’ll look back on it as a temporary global phenomenon. And, it might not feel like it now, but the markets will regain confidence too. Rather than exiting the market now and locking in losses, adding time into the equation means allowing yourself to take part in the recovery.
Better still, if you can phase money into your investments during the uncertainty you’ll likely get the assets you currently hold at cheaper prices, like shopping in the sales. Again, time is the essential element here so if you can afford to hold off selling and keep a cool head for a while longer it might just help.
If you aren’t quite in this position but the volatility has you thinking of your goals there are also some useful tips to keep in mind.
Plan ahead, reduce risk, come out in stages
Ideally investors reduce risk the nearer their goals get, in case of times like now. That can mean regularly trimming holdings altogether and moving into cash, or steadily increasing fixed income holdings and reducing equity exposure. Shifting from equity funds into multi-asset or balanced options can help manage the transition. This used to be how people coming up to retirement dealt with their finances and, while some still do, if you’re looking to stay invested through retirement it’s worth looking at the best ways to do this here.
So when‘s a good time to do this? Most equity fund managers will aim to select companies for their funds with at least a three to five-year time horizon in mind. Some buy-and-hold specialists will aim for much longer, some value managers prefer to focus on their ideas playing out rather than timeframes. For the rest of us, it’s sensible to start thinking of your goals five years out. That doesn’t mean selling and waiting in the wilderness for five years, but it does mean taking some risk off the table regularly because, as we’ve seen lately, we can never tell what’s round the corner.
Important information: Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.