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Illustration of a stock market graph and a bear silhouette with stock numbers on it, while two young investors look at it.
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If you've been putting off your first foray into the stock market, listen up: Now may be the opportune time to take the plunge.

This month, the S&P 500 — a benchmark index commonly use to measure how the stock market overall is doing — fell into a bear market, meaning that its value dropped at least 20% from its previous high. Stocks have had a small comeback and are down around 17% for the year as of Tuesday morning. The overall downturn is still a stark difference from what investors got used to during the pandemic, when prices were buoyed by stimulus money from the government and near-zero interest rates.

Now for the good news.

"It's a great opportunity when the market is down to be able to get in and start the process," says Heather Winston, director of financial planning and advice at Principal Financial Group.

That means if you're brand new to investing, now is the time to start building wealth via the financial markets. Plus, when you're investing in stocks, it quite literally pays to start sooner rather than later because equities appreciate in value over the long term. So don't wait, Winston says. The longer you do, the more you'll have to save to make your financial goals a reality.

Here are four ways brand new investors can benefit from the bear market.