Many investors are frightened as they watch the changes Wall Street is going through. The uncertainty about the future and the changes that are happening make people wonder, what should I do now and what do the changes mean to me? Here are five tips on who should be staying put and who should be making changes:
1) Could your money market account break the buck?
Money market mutual fund accounts are considered a safe place to keep your cash and they have always lived up to that in the past even though they are not guaranteed by the FDIC. The Reserve Prime Money Market Fund broke the buck-meaning that its net asset value fell below $1.00 a share. Most institutions will come out of pocket to keep their money market accounts from breaking the buck because it would hurt their brand and their business too much if they had a money market fund failure. Fidelity and Vanguard are producing public reports on the holdings in their money market funds. Call or go online to the institution that holds your money market mutual fund account and see what they are saying or not saying about their funds holdings.
2) Are you protected in the current financial crisis?
If you own a checking, savings, or certificate of deposit, you should make sure that you are insured by the FDIC. President Obama signed a law that includes provisions that extend the $250,000 FDIC & NCUA deposit insurance limit to December 31st, 2013.
The FDIC insures up to a $125,000 per financial institution, per-person. A joint account that holds less than $250,000 in checking, savings, or Certificate of Deposits at an FDIC-insured institution would be insured.
I read about someone who had both a personal and a business account not realizing they were not separately protected. When the bank went under a year or so ago, she lost a lot of her money. Call and check where you stand. That phone call could save you a lot of grief.
3) Are your funds exposed to endangered financials?
I always believe in sticking to your long term financial plan and remaining patient amidst the storm is the best course of action for anyone. But there are some mutual funds that have high exposure to Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill, and the like. Obviously the Neuberger Berman funds are at risk since they were owned by Lehman Brothers and are up for sale. Current investors will have to take a close look at how the new management will affect their holdings. Review your funds to see how much you are exposed to these and other institutions and make your decision to stay or sell based on that. Remember, too, that there are tax consequences when you sell.
4) Should you stop investing?
Lackluster stock market returns can’t continue forever. The market has a history of posting gains after periods of losses. The long boom of the 1980s and 1990s, for example, followed another lost decade between 1972 and 1982. So you shouldn’t give up on investing in the stock market. In fact, it’s probably a better time to invest than any time in years. Just be careful to stay diversified. No one can predict what sector or style will do well in any one year so keep your money spread out, but keeping adding to your portfolio.
5) Take a deep breath and relax.
It’s important to do what you need to do to protect your assets. Get some support by making an appointment with your Financial Advisor or with me to review your holdings and voice your feelings. But no matter what you do, you cannot bring your risk down to zero. You are always taking some amount of risk and that means you will always have the potential to lose money. Most millionaires have lost money time and time again, and I am sure you will, too, at some point in your life. The point is to do what you can so that even when you lose money, it doesn’t wash you away. A bit of a loss won’t keep you from food, shelter, or a smile on your face.