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Stock markets falling: What do I do and who is at fault?

There is an old Irish proverb which states that “Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb” (the windy day is not the day for thatching).  This has come to mind quite a few times over the past couple of days and weeks as the world markets react to either the Coronavirus spreading or the oil being allowed to flow freely in the Middle East.

I believe a sense of perspective on it all is worth having:

  • Markets: 

This is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, major fluctuation in the world markets over the coming period.  In fact markets are, by their nature, volatile.  In recent years we have become very immune to falling markets as positive growth stories abounded.  What is occurring now is more closely aligned to a correction in equity markets which one should expect as part of any investment cycle.  People always, naturally, fear the unknown, but history demonstrates that in times of great uncertainty (in markets) opportunities arise.

  • Action: 

A fall in overall markets is not, of itself, a reason to make any particular adjustments on investment strategies.  However, if you are very concerned about your individual valuations it does, perhaps, suggest that the risk profile you are invested in is not appropriate to you.  This is something that you should certainly consider and review with your advisor.

The above is not the same as suggesting that you should “go to cash” and wait for markets to improve before re-investing.  In fact “going to cash” goes against all behavioural economic views on investing.  Time is the most crucial element of all in investing, not timing.

  • Me:

For those who are on the cusp of retiring their funds or those who are imminently encashing policies the reality is that markets will have certainly negatively impacted on their values.  However, these are the vast minority.  For the majority of people investments (pension policies or investment assets) are typically being held for the long term and therefore short-term fluctuations in values are to be expected. 

If one has a defined financial plan and understands what they are, individually, trying to achieve our advice is to remain true to the plan and continue with the agreed strategy.


Obviously it is nigh on impossible to avoid news reports at present that are negative and strike fear in people.  However, negative information is simply that, information.  It is not a prerequisite that you take some action simply because you have heard the same information repeated.  Stay true to the plan that you set out on and, over the long term, it will bear fruit.