5 tips for investors during uncertain economic times

Dustin Sobolik, investment officer at Heartland Trust Company, 1202 27th St. S., said have a disciplined, long-term investment plan and stick to it. Special to The Forum

FARGO — With the coronavirus causing volatility in the stock market, some people might be nervously eyeing their personal investment portfolios and wondering what to do.

Don’t panic seems to be the best advice.

Dustin Sobolik, investment officer at Heartland Trust Company in Fargo, said he can offer some generalized suggestions, but a lot will depend on an investor’s particular portfolio, where they are in their investing career, and a host of other factors which are best left to their personal investment adviser, or, for tax implications, even a certified public accountant.

Heartland Trust specializes in personal and nonprofit investment services, including trust administration, 401(K), financial planning and investment management.

“I understand we want to take all the precautions possible to handle the virus,” Sobolik said, “but the financial media has a tendency to thrive on fear and hysteria.”


With that in mind, here are five pieces of general advice to keep in mind.

Have a plan, stick to it

It’s important to stay disciplined, especially with a volatile market, and especially when it comes to your investment portfolio.

“On average,” Sobolik said, “we do get a correction most years. I think this one has people a little more scared just because of the velocity of it.”

A few good things to consider, he said: Make sure you’re invested appropriately for your risk tolerance, and that you own enough bonds in your portfolio to act as a cushion in case the market falls. Once you have a good plan, be sure to have the discipline to stick to it.

Rebalance your portfolio

The selling of assets that have appreciated in value, and the buying of assets that have either depreciated, or just buying bonds in general, Sobolik said, is often referred to as rebalancing your portfolio. He said it might be a good idea to consider doing it, in part, because “every person has their own tolerance for risk.”

Make sure you know what your tolerance level is, a key factor Sobolik stressed more than once.

Harvest losses for taxes

Selling investments for a loss, especially in early years of trading, then reinvesting the proceeds might be a good idea. Be sure to check with your investment adviser and tax adviser to see if that might be a good idea now, as there are certain rules people should be aware of, Sobolik said.

Even if you don’t go this route, knowing your options is always a good thing.


Consider a partial Roth conversion

Rolling over pre-tax funds from a retirement account into a Roth IRA might also be a consideration, and it could be the right time to do it. Again, Sobolik said check with your investment adviser and tax adviser first.

“I think both of those items are good to evaluate during a market correction,” he said. “People really get the urge to take action when the market gets volatile or corrects. Better to seize the opportunity and evaluate the big picture, rather than engage in knee-jerk behavior that may be harmful to your portfolio.”

Don’t panic

It goes hand-in-hand with No. 1, but it can’t be stressed enough.

“If you were to look at a chart over the last 10 years,” Sobolik said, “we’ve had the Greek debt crisis, we had Ebola. The fourth quarter of 2018 the market actually dropped more than it has at this point. We’ve been through this before.”

It’s important, he said, to remain disciplined, and to get the best advice in order to take appropriate actions based on market conditions.

“But not to be reactionary,” he said, “and think of the opportunity this may present to you.”

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