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Think Stocks Will Crash in May? Do These 4 Things Now

By Maurie Backman - May 6, 2021 at 6:36AM

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Stock market downturns can be daunting. Here's what you need to do to prepare.

When will the stock market crash? That's the big question on many investors' minds at a time when stocks are, across the board, pretty overvalued. In fact, if the stock market doesn't tank completely in the near term, investors should at the very least begin bracing for a correction, where stock values drop 10% or more.

Of course, the idea of a stock market crash can be very scary, especially if you're a newer investor and you haven't experienced one before. But rather than allow yourself to get spooked, you're better off taking action. Here are a few crucial moves to make if you're worried that May is when the stock market will finally take a major turn for the worse.

Man staring at laptop with serious expression

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Pad your emergency savings

What does the amount of money you have in the bank have to do with your stock portfolio? A lot, actually. If you secure your emergency fund so you have ample cash to cover unplanned expenses, you won't have to tap your investments out of desperation. That could, in turn, prevent you from needing to liquidate stocks at a time when their value has dropped substantially.

2. Diversify

A diverse portfolio could help you ride out a stock market crash, so if you're heavily invested in one or two market segments right now, take the opportunity to branch out -- before things take a turn for the worse. Diversifying could simply mean buying stocks in sectors you're not currently invested in. Or you could load up on some index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that give you access to the broader market. For example, if you invest in an S&P 500 index fund or ETF, you'll effectively be putting money into the 500 largest publicly traded companies on the market. It doesn't get much more diverse than that.

3. Add dividend stocks to your portfolio

Companies that pay dividends tend to do so even when stock values are down. And that's a good way to hedge your bets. If your portfolio takes a hit, you can offset those losses with incoming dividend payments, and that's money you'll have the option to cash out and use as needed or reinvest.

4. Stockpile some cash

Market crashes tend to spell opportunity, and so it's important to have cash at the ready for when stocks go on sale. While your first priority should be to shore up your emergency fund, if you're also able to divert some extra cash to your brokerage account, you'll put yourself in a great position to pounce while stocks are temporarily discounted.

Even if you're a seasoned investor who follows the market closely, you probably won't be able to predict exactly when the stock market will crash next. While a May crash is certainly possible, it's also certainly not a given. But rather than spin your wheels trying to determine when that crash is coming, you should instead focus your energy on checking off the boxes above. That way, you'll really be ready for whatever is ahead.

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