Whenever a major world event occurs, it's natural for investors to ask how it will affect the economy and their personal financial situation. After all, financial markets abhor disruption and uncertainty.
What should investors do in the face of war with Iraq? Our first answer: Gain perspective. Not to diminish what's happening, but wars have shaken our financial markets before, and the U.S. economy has always emerged stronger and more successful.
That's what Philip Fisher said in the '60s, addressing wars with words that still apply today:
Through the twentieth century, with a single exception, every time major war has broken out anywhere in the world, or whenever American forces have become involved in any fighting whatever, the American stock market has always plunged sharply downward.... Nevertheless, at the conclusion of all actual fighting -- regardless of whether it was World War I, World War II, or Korea -- most stocks were selling at levels vastly higher than prevailed before there was any thought of war at all.
Bottom line? Don't panic and sell your stocks on the basis of recent events. In fact, it may even be time to buy.
Want more perspective? The following timeless articles, stories, and ancedotes are taken from our archives here at Fool.com.
Hold Stocks in Uncertain Times, by Tom Jacobs (TMF Tom9)
According to the esteemed Philip Fisher, author of Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits, some investors react wrongly to wars. Converting stocks to cash can be a mistake because wartime spending usually brings inflation.
If War Comes, by Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)
Rather than worry or flee the stock market, our own Fischer believes 20th century history indicates that war represents a stock-buying opportunity. He breaks down market data from conflicts spanning the past 100 years.
Our Resilient Economy, by Brian Lund
While previous uncertain times have met with immediate sell-offs, former Fool writer Brian Lund reminds us that the market and the economy have emerged stronger from each. They can do so this time, as well.
In the face of a market decline...
Foolish Words for Any Market Decline, by Motley Fool Staff
Whatever the cause of a market drop, find reasons to decide whether to buy or sell. Plus, words from a cautious investor, the advantages of going against the herd, the role of shorting stocks, and how having a cash cushion puts you in control.
Are things different this time?
The Day the Sky Fell, by Bill Mann (TMF Otter)
On the 70th anniversary of Black Monday in 1929, Bill Mann identifies all the institutions spawned by the Great Depression to prevent it from happening again.
- Fool Community member tantal identifies the many differences between the world economy at the start of the Great Depression and today (free Community trial required).
The rules for successful investing don't change
The Great Regression, by Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)
The lessons of the Great Depression remind investors that there is no shortcut to investing success. Regular saving and investing over periods of many years -- preferably decades -- is still sound advice for uncertain times.
Market Crash, by Chris Rugaber
In the middle of the market run-up in the late 1990s, this former Fool writer pointed out the absurdity of predicting the market's short-term direction. It's a reminder that despite the importance of recent events, we can't predict their effects on the markets.
Is It a Nifty 500? Part I and Part II, by Jim Surowiecki
Former Fool writer Jim Surowiecki explains how the index fund was born and why it's hard to beat a low-expense S&P 500 index fund over the long term.
Keeping your financial house in order to avoid trouble
Could You Lose Everything? by Tom Jacobs (TMF Tom9)
The title expresses many investors' worst fears. In this tale, Tom Jacobs relates his family's Great Depression experience for a timeless lesson about taking care of your personal finances.
Finally, should the individual investor just steer clear?
The Stock Market and the Great Unwashed, by Sarah Wilson
With tongue firmly in cheek, this Fool U.K. Community member suggests that the market's volatility -- regardless of the cause -- means individual investors should steer clear of the market and trust the government to care for them. Not!
For even more on how to invest during wartime, you can get our free report, When War Comes, when you subscribe to The Motley Fool Select.