6 mistakes to avoid when the sharemarket falls

The Australian sharemarket is down around 15% from its recent highs on recession fears. Here are six investing mistakes to avoid when the market falls.

The Australian sharemarket is down around 12% in 2022 and 15% from its 2021 highs. Investors are concerned about persistent inflation and the impact of looming interest rates hikes on the economy. Other assets like global shares and bonds have also fallen on inflation fears.

A market dip of this size isn’t uncommon. In fact, nearly every year there’s a 10%-20% fall in the market at some point. What makes this years dip unusual compared to recent history is that bonds and shares have fallen together.

We anticipated the potential for this risk in early 2021. At the time we reduced our allocation to bonds and increased our allocation to gold.

Gold is one of the few investments with positive returns in 2022 so far. The Stockspot portfolios haven’t been immune to the market falls. They are down so far in 2022, however, gold has helped to reduce losses for our clients.

Despite regular market dips and economic recessions, Australian shares have still earned investors on average 10.9% p.a. since 1926. This is why it pays to stay invested and be patient when markets have periods of negative returns.

Here are six mistakes to avoid when markets fall so you can stay on the road to investing success. 

Mistake #1: Selling your portfolio on fear of a recession

Many investors make the mistake of selling when the market falls, concerned that the economy is heading towards a recession. Their fear is that the economy may first get worse and any rebound will take years. 

This thought process is completely understandable. Research shows people feel the pain of loss twice as much than the enjoyment of profits. They will often react without thinking. It’s our fight-or-flight response. Our amygdala (the part of our brain that regulates emotions) is in overdrive trying to prevent loss.

However, a gut reaction is likely to negatively affect your returns. Market movements and losses have always been followed by longer periods of gains and recovery. But, if you exit the market in a panic, you risk not being invested when the market rebounds. And it might be too difficult to buy back in at a higher price. 

There have been 12 recessions in the U.S. since WWII, the sharemarket has risen during half of them.

The sharemarket is often ahead of the economy, so by the time any recession hits, the sharemarket might already be on the way back up.

Stay calm and remember that time in the market, instead of timing the market, is the secret sauce of long-term investing. We recommend all clients have at least a three-year investment timeframe, because the longer you invest, the better your chances of making a great return. This article from June 2020 explores why market corrections can be great long-term opportunity to invest.

Mistake #2: Changing your portfolio strategy

Changing your portfolio risk in reaction to market performance is a form of market timing and similar to selling your portfolio. Unfortunately, the result is the sale of investments that have fallen the most in price. 

There are certain circumstances where it’s appropriate to change your investment strategy. But selling investments at a low point is generally not the way to go. 

If you have a tendency to get nervous when your investments go up and down, consider monitoring your portfolios less frequently. This helps prevent your short-term emotions from overpowering the long-term game plan.

Mistake #3: Not topping up your investments (if you have the means)

Market dips can be a good time to top up your investments since you’re able to benefit from buying shares at a cheaper price. Think of it as a 15% off Black Friday sale at your favourite store. Hardly something to run from! 

If you set up regular deposits to your investment account, you can manage the risk of market dips and balance out how much you pay for your investments through dollar-cost averaging.

Mistake #4: Not reinvesting your dividends

Even though the value of shares might decline over the short-term, many companies will still be paying dividends. When markets fall, dividends and distributions can be reinvested at a lower price, helping you benefit even more when share prices go up again.

For example, Stockspot clients will receive around $4 million worth of dividends and distributions in July 2022 which we will use to re-invest into ETFs that have fallen. 

Mistake #5: Not rebalancing your portfolio

Rebalancing is another way to take advantage of market dips.

Portfolio rebalancing is the process of realigning the assets in a portfolio to desired levels. It involves periodically buying or selling assets in a portfolio and can be difficult to do on your own. 

Stockspot automatically rebalances our clients’ portfolios. In March 2020, we sold gold and bonds which had performed well and invested the profits into sharemarkets that had collapsed. The sharemarket rebounded, and as a result, many of our clients were up 40% or more on the extra shares we bought for them when we rebalanced again in November 2020.

Mistake #6: Not diversifying your investments

While the broad sharemarket index is down, there are sectors that have fared much worse during this market dip. Australian tech shares are down 40-50% and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are down 75% or more. Buy now, pay later shares are down a staggering 95% from their highs.

If you have a properly diversified portfolio (investments in several asset classes), you can ignore market dips and not worry about catastrophic losses that can occur when you have invested into a single asset or sector. We warned of the dangers of day trading and buying popular tech shares in 2020.

Index investing comes out stronger from each market crisis because loss-making active investors and day traders convert to a diversified indexed approach.

At Stockspot, we prepare for uncertainty and dips in the market by investing across a broad range of different investments. Defensive assets like bonds and gold are a proven way to protect a portfolio and provide a cushion when markets dip. If you diversify, you’ll avoid large losses from a single investment. This can make a big difference to your sanity when markets fall.

Research has shown that setting a diversified investment strategy and ignoring the movements of the market leads to much better outcomes than trying to outsmart the market. 

In short, if you’ve focused on setting yourself up with a diversified portfolio that’s rebalanced appropriately, simply stick to your strategy, stay invested, and perhaps top up if you have the cash reserves.

Adopting this mindset will stop you veering off the road to investing success. 

Don’t panic about market falls. Set yourself up for investing success with a diversified Stockspot portfolio.
  • Chris Brycki

    Founder and CEO

    Chris has over 25 years of investment experience and spent most of his early career as a Portfolio Manager at UBS. Chris has been a member of the ASIC Digital Advisory Committee and volunteers as a member of the Investment Committee for the NSW Cancer Council. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting/Finance Co-op Scholarship) from UNSW.

Founder and CEO

Chris has over 25 years of investment experience and spent most of his early career as a Portfolio Manager at UBS. Chris has been a member of the ASIC Digital Advisory Committee and volunteers as a member of the Investment Committee for the NSW Cancer Council. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting/Finance Co-op Scholarship) from UNSW.

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