The COVID-19-induced stock market crash isn't the first decline I've experienced as an investor, but it's been a challenging one to grapple with. During past downturns, I've only had to worry about my portfolio's health -- not my physical health. But now, there's so much uncertainty just not regarding the stock market's recovery, but our country's physical, economical, and mental recovery on a whole.
All of this has prompted me to invest a little bit differently this time around. Here are a few tweaks I'm implementing.
1. I'm diverting less spare cash to my brokerage account
Right now is a prime opportunity to load up on quality stocks at a discount, and during a normal market crash, I'd be funneling pretty much every extra dollar that comes my way into my brokerage account. But this situation is different, and because we have no way of knowing what life will look like two, three, five, or 12 months from now, I'm being a little more cautious -- namely, by padding my emergency fund (even though it's already at a healthy level) and then putting what's left over into my brokerage account. I want that extra cushion in the bank in case a full-blown recession hits, and while I'm losing out on some opportunities by padding my savings, I'm also gaining peace of mind.
2. I'm focusing on individual stocks over index funds
Index funds can be a solid buy during a stock market downturn because their movement mimics the broader market. If you buy, say, an S&P 500 index fund when that index is down, once it picks back up, you stand to gain -- all without having to do a ton of legwork. I happen to be a big fan of index funds and told myself I'd buy more if the market went down, but instead, I took the opportunity to buy a few tech stocks that I'd been eying for months (or years) that were finally affordable enough to snatch up, as well as some relatively cheap travel stocks. The reason? I'd already done my research on these companies and felt they were a good buy before the market tanked, so I wanted to snag them at a lower share price while I could.
3. I'm front-loading my retirement plan contributions
Because I own an S-Corp and pay myself a salary, I have the option to fund my Solo 401(k) a couple of ways -- I can contribute a maximum of $19,500 from my salary, which is the 401(k) limit this year for anyone under 50, and I can then contribute a portion of my business's net income, up to a maximum of another $37,500 on top of my $19,500. Because I don't know how much income my business will generate, I can't yet calculate what my total allowable Solo 401(k) contribution will be for the year. But since I know I'm eligible to put in up to $19,500 from my salary, I went ahead and front-loaded that contribution so it's all in my account. Normally, I'd divvy that $19,500 up across 12 months of contributions, but since now's a good time to buy long-term investments at a discount, I wanted that money in my 401(k) right away.
Though stock market crashes are fairly common, this particular one occurred so rapidly it threw investors for a loop. And the fact that it was spurred by a major health crisis has made it all the more difficult to process. As such, I've made a few changes that I feel will benefit me, and I'd encourage any investor, even seasoned ones, to see if it makes sense to do the same.