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A Strange Year Prompts The Question: How To Survive A Stock Market Crash?

Shanthi Rexaline
·4 min read

Stock trading is fraught with risks, and it exposes traders to situations where they can end up losing all their money -- or end up laughing all the way to the bank.

Uncertain Backdrop: The current macroeconomic and geopolitical environment has created a fluid environment. Notwithstanding the uncertainties, the market has continued to grind higher despite the COVID-19 pandemic and sneak into record territory.

The broader S&P 500 Index, which plunged sharply earlier this year amid the onset of the pandemic, has rebounded nicely after hitting a bottom in late-March. Since scaling a peak of 3,588.11 in early September, the broader gauge has gone into consolidation mode, assimilating the strong gains.

With the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. presidential election and the bickering among lawmakers on stimulus to kickstart the sagging economy, stocks began moving southwards in mid-October. This has conjured up visions of an imminent pullback, which could precipitate a crash. While the outcome of the election has lifted markets, rising COVID-19 cases could put a scare into the markets once again.

How should you prepare for a sudden downtown?

Identifying a Crash: A bear market is a pullback in excess of 20% from a recent high. A stock market crash can broadly be defined as a sudden and steep decline in stock prices within a very short interval of time. When stocks begin to fall, the already-weak investor sentiment worsens further. Fear becomes the dominant emotion, taking over from greed, and this leads to incessant selling, wiping away millions in market value from stocks.

History of Stock Market Crashes: Among the biggest recorded stock market crashes in the history of the U.S. are:

The stock market crash of 1929
The stock market crash of 1987
The dotcom bubble burst of 1999-2000
The 2008 crash in the wake of the Great Recession that followed the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

Related Link: 3 'Safe' ETFs If A Stock Market Correction Comes Calling

For those jittery investors, panicking over potential losses, here are a few guidance points that can help you to stay sane amid the pandemonium.

Allow the Turn of Events to Run Its Course: Having a clear mind is very important in investing. Knee-jerk reactions, which burn a hole in the pocket, should be avoided at any cost. Fear and panic should be kept in check.

It is better to keep in mind the maxim "buy low and sell high."

Panicking and pressing the sell button at a time when the stock market crashes will only leave an investor poorer, shutting them out of the opportunity of capitalizing on a market rebound.

If we go back in history, stock markets around the globe have survived some serious crashes and have emerged stronger.

The most recent crash amid the Great Recession saw the S&P 500 hitting a low of 666.79 on March 6, 2009. Cut to a little over a decade from there, the index has added more than 400%.

It's just a matter of waiting out the adversity with ample patience.

Stay Immune to the Noise Around: With the mushrooming of the so-called stock market pundits, who have an opinion at every turn of the stock market, it is quite natural to be swayed by their recommendations and warnings.

At least, in times of crises such as a market crash, it is advisable to shut out of the cacophony. Heeding the advice of every expert only lends to more confusion, making it harder to think rationally.

Instead, stay focused on investment goals and look at a longer time horizon to ride out the volatility.

Turn Adversity Into Opportunity: As the saying goes, an optimist finds opportunity even amid adversity. Be that optimist who still sees the rosier side of dark times. Here are some things an investor can do to capitalize on a market downturn:

Scout for stocks of profitable companies that pay out dividends. Dividends make for a steady stream of income that accrues to an investor. It is paid out of the net income earned by the company. Apart from coming in handy for meeting expenses, dividends can also be used for reinvesting.

One can invest in a fund or ETF investing purely in dividend-paying stocks such as the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation Index Fund ETF Shares (NYSE: VIG) and SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (NYSE: SDY).

Consider bonds. Bonds also fetch fixed income in the form of interest.

Buy recession-proof or defensive stocks such as consumer staples that can withstand the stock market sell-off.

Diversify your risk by investing in a portfolio or an ETF.

Avoiding herd mentality, maintaining one's sanity in the face of adversity, cutting out noise and devising a prude investment plan for the down time will serve an investor well during times of a stock market crash.

Related Link: How To Play The 2020 Stock Market Crash: Like 1987, 2000 Or 2008?

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