- There's a lot of financial uncertainty reflected in the stock market right now.
- As a financial advisor who started investing during a downturn in the early 2000s, I know how unnerving it can be.
- My best advice is to remain patient, stick to your plan (but be willing to adapt), and consult a financial professional if you need specific guidance.
- This article is a contributed piece as part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master your Money.
There is certainly no shortage of uncertainty in the world right now. It's safe to say that none of us — especially millennials — have lived through a time as unpredictable as 2020 so far, and we've still got a few months left.
While the pandemic continues to dominate the news, there's also financial uncertainty to deal with, and whether you've started investing or have no experience with it, you should use the current instability as a spark to revisit or kickstart your investment approach.
There's a lot to consider here, especially if you're planning to start investing during a downturn. The markets have been up and down, job security is a major concern (if you still have one), and without a crystal ball to know the long-term economic impact that COVID-19 will have, investing right now, rather than keeping your money liquid, might not be at the top of your mind.
However, having started my investing experience during the downturn of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, there are some parallels and lessons I learned that can be applied to today's climate.
Here are a few pieces of advice that are sound for anyone, really, but are doubly important for millennials right now:
1. Talk with a qualified financial professional
The financial markets are confusing, and thinking about your investments and bank account 40 years from now can be daunting. Financial professionals have seen and heard it all.
Finding the right one for you means that you have a professional who you feel comfortable with, and one who is comfortable with your initial investment. They know the various options and strategies out there to help you meet your needs and your goals.
2. Set your goals and start early
You can't run a race that doesn't have a finish line, and a road trip without a destination is just a long, inefficient car ride. Goals can change over time, but you should set a baseline to work towards and help inform your investment decisions to monitor and track your progress over time.
But remember, start now. Compound interest is a friend, and investing early can be more important than investing heavily.
3. Adapt and adjust annually
As we've seen in 2020, things change. Sometimes for the better, other times not so much. Your decisions are never set in stone, and as you get more comfortable investing and your career progresses, your investing strategy should adapt with your financial situation.
Increasing your contributions annually whenever feasible along the way and considering diversifying with things like Roth IRAs will be key.
4. Be patient
The market fluctuates — a lot, sometimes. If you're new to investing, that can freak you out a bit, and you might be tempted to abandon your plan. Don't. Investing for retirement is the long game.
A good advisor will guide you through uncertainty and work with you to help ensure you make educated investment choices.
Joseph Edmondson is a financial professional with Equitable Advisors and a member of BI's Money Council.
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