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How 3 Experts Think About Stock Market Volatility

By Jason Hall and Brian Feroldi - Nov 22, 2020 at 6:01AM

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Focusing on your financial goals is a great starting point to getting the best returns from stocks.

2020 has been a brutally volatile year for stocks. While the market is on track to finish solidly higher than it started on an incredible bounce back from the lows of late March, plenty of individual investors haven't enjoyed the same successes as the overall market. 

On the Oct. 26 edition of "The Wrap" on Motley Fool Live, host Jason Hall engaged Motley Fool contributor Brian Feroldi and analyst Emily Flippen in a conversation about strategies to deal with the market's volatility. Looking to improve your returns and better manage the market's ups and downs? These three experts explain how they manage it in their own investing practices. 

Jason Hall: What I want to do is just have a little round table conversation. What do you do? What's your process? How do you think about volatility and how does it form your investing decisions?

Brian Feroldi: I came prepared. (See image in video above) What happened today, and this is what happens over months, this is what happens over years, and this is what happens over decades. I focus on this (points at "years" in image.) Not this (points at "days".) The stock market was down today. So what? I don't care what the stock market does on any given day. People seem to be like really upset. It's down 2%.

Yeah. This is the year to date, so we're up 5% year-to-date. This is what happened over the last 10 years. That looks pretty good to me. This is what happened over the last 30-ish years? That looks pretty good to me. I'd never get upset about what happened on any given day because I'm an investor, not a trader.

Hall: Here's the key. Here's the thing I think is important to hit on too. Why is the decades are more important to use than the days?

Feroldi: What are we investing for?

Hall: Right. There you go. That's it.

Feroldi: What are we investing for? We're investing to fund future purchases. The thing I'm investing for is financial independence and that takes this (on screen), not this (on screen.)

Hall: That's it. Love it. Emily.

Emily Flippen: Everything Brian said, in my opinion, is right. I think long-term members have probably heard us say it a million and one times, so hopefully, they're not worried. But a lot of people are still worried. I'm going to make this a personal example. Today, and for the past few weeks, I've been part of the interview committee, we're hiring some product managers at the Fool here. One of the questions I like to ask in the interview for any of our product managers is, what's your experience with investing? Not that our product managers are investing, but when you work for the Motley Fool having a little bit of an interest is critical.

One thing that I found really interesting is a lot of the people interviewing, especially those who are a little bit younger talked about COVID. They talked about how all of their friends had now downloaded Robinhood or gotten into whatever free trading over the past few months, or really last year or so and are now essentially day trading stocks. It's interesting just from the perspective of how this market volatility and how being stuck at home has encouraged a lot of individual investors to get into the stock market, but the flip side of that is that a lot of these investors haven't been investing for decades. They don't understand the tenets of long-term buy-and-hold. So when the stock market is down over a day or a month, it's earth-shattering to them.

I appreciate this question, Jason, because it's easy to say when you've been around the block, and I'm not saying I've been around the block, Jason and Brian, you've been around the block a lot more times than I have, to remember that over a decade the stock.

Hall: Brian, she just said that we are old.

Feroldi: I know, but she did it really nicely, didn't she?

Hall: I want to call her out, though. It's true, Emily, you're right.

Flippen: I can only hope at one point of my life I will have a level of experience that somebody can call me out for it. I will take no offense to that at some point, anybody wants to do it. But at 26 years old, as somebody who was not actively investing during the Great Recession, I don't think I've experienced a lot of the fear that exists when the stock market is volatile and haven't been investing for 30 years the way that many investors have been. So worth repeating that the best thing you can do for your individual portfolio is to not look at it, I genuinely believe that. It's silly to say it because we sit on Motley Fool Live and talk about stocks all day, but try not to let your emotions drive your investing decisions. Invest for years, invest for decades, don't invest for days.

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