Americans’ hopes for a secure retirement hit a two-year low in the first quarter, as big stock market swings unnerved workers and retirees alike, a new report shows. Many believe the recent choppiness in the market is “the new normal,” and most say they could use professional advice to deal with it.
The good news is that the vast majority either held tight or continued buying stocks amid the fluctuations. Only 4% of investors let the swings scare them out of the market, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism index.
This finding confirms other research showing that investors with an eye toward retirement generally ride out market storms, but that a small percentage always panics. The research also points up the heavy psychological toll that market volatility takes on retirement savers.
In the Wells Fargo survey, 46% of retirees and 36% of workers said market volatility was stressing them out. More than two-thirds in a 401(k) plan said they would be willing to pay a fee for advice on how to invest, when to take distributions, and how to convert savings into an annuity. Overall, the percentage of investors optimistic about stocks in the next 12 months and the percentage confident in the market as a place to save both plunged.
It’s worth pointing out that while market volatility spiked in recent months, it is well within its historical range. Sure, the swings can be unnerving. But for long-term investors it rarely pays to try to jump in and out of stocks at just the right time. In fact, volatility can boost your returns over the long haul if you invest a set amount of money each month and do not waver. This strategy automatically buys more shares when they are down and fewer when they are up.
The Wells Fargo survey, along with others, suggests most people understand the value of riding out the bumps. The big challenge is to be more chill about doing so.