Investing When Markets are Down

Jeff Witz

Share This Post

The start of 2022 has come with plenty of challenges for investors. Both domestic and international equity markets are down. As of this writing (5/10/2022), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 11.90%, the S&P 500 was down 16.15%, the MSCI EAFE was down 17.00%. Compounding these challenges is that bonds, normally a safe haven when equities are struggling, have also been down. The Bloomberg US Aggregate bond index was down 10.11%. There are very few places to hide in market environments like these.

When markets are down significantly, investors commonly feel a sense of panic or fear they are losing everything they have accumulated. They obsess over the financial news and are tempted to sell to preserve what is left. However, these moves typically provide short-term comfort at the expense of long-term goals.

Selling after the markets are down may significantly reduce your ability to make up those losses in the rallies that historically occur after a sharp decline. For example, after the 2008/09 financial crisis, in which the S&P 500 was down as much as 51%, the following rally lasted 118 months and was up over 300%.[1] Following the Dot-Com crash in 2000, when stocks were down 45%, the following rally lasted 61 months and was up over 100%.[2]  In fact, following every sustained down market has been a significant and sustained upward rally.[3]

Benefitting from these rallies requires being invested in the market. If you sold previously, you may miss out on all or a significant portion of the rally. If you’re thinking, “but what if I sold when things started going down and then bought back in at the bottom?” Timing the market is incredibly difficult to do. How will you know when the market is headed for a sustained downward slide, and how will you know when the market has reached bottom? These are nearly impossible things to predict and guessing wrong can negatively impact your investment success.

Surviving a down market requires some key behaviors, patience and discipline. Patience that markets will turn and, over the long term, move in an overall positive direction. This also means not chasing the hottest trends and trusting that your investment strategy will produce the results you desire long term. Discipline means continuing to adhere to an asset allocation strategy and diversified investment mix that can help you reach your financial goals.

If you feel like you must take some sort of action, there are a few activities that can be helpful:

  • Rebalance your portfolio. Market volatility can skew your allocation from its original target. Certain assets will be more affected by market swings and will move outside their target allocations. Rebalance your portfolio by selling positions that have become overweight in relation to the rest of your portfolio and move the proceeds to positions that have become underweight.
  • Tax loss harvesting. In taxable accounts, if any investments are in the negative, you can sell those investments to capture the loss. These losses can be used to offset gains elsewhere or up to $3,000 per year can be used to offset income taxes. Tax loss harvesting can help these accounts become more tax efficient moving forward.
  • Review your risk tolerance. Risk you took on years ago may no longer make sense given your current circumstances and life stage. If you are less open to risk, consider adjusting your target asset allocation.
  • If you must trade during volatile markets, there are defensive steps you can take to protect your positions. Stop orders and stop-limit orders can help shield unrealized gains or limit potential losses on an existing position.

When markets are struggling, you may be tempted to take action. However, reacting during these time periods may cause more harm than good to your investment portfolios. Correctly guessing when to get out of, or back into the market, is very difficult to do correctly. If you must take action, consider less substantial maneuvers such as tax loss harvesting, rebalancing, and implementing defensive tactics like stop-limit and stop-loss orders.

Before taking any action, we recommend you speak with your financial professional or CPA to better understand their financial or tax implications.

Jeff Witz, CFP® welcome readers’ questions.  He can be reached at 800-883-8555 or

200 North LaSalle Street – Suite 2300 – Chicago, Illinois 60601

312-419-3733 – Toll Free 800-883-8555 – Fax 312-332-4908 –

Investment advisory services offered through MEDIQUS Asset Advisors, Inc. Securities offered through Ausdal Financial Partners, Inc.  Member FINRA/SIPC ∙ 5187 Utica Ridge Rd ∙ Davenport, IA 52807 ∙ 563-326-2064 ∙ MEDIQUS Asset Advisors and Ausdal Financial Partners, Inc. are independently owned and operated.


Effective June 21, 2005, newly issued Internal Revenue Service regulations require that certain types of written advice include a disclaimer. To the extent the preceding message contains written advice relating to a Federal tax issue, the written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer, for the purposes of avoiding Federal tax penalties, and was not written to support the promotion or marketing of the transaction or matters discussed herein.

The information contained in this report is for informational purposes only. Any calculations have been made using techniques we consider reliable but are not guaranteed. Please contact your tax advisor to review this information and to consult with them regarding any questions you may have with respect to this communication.

MEDIQUS Asset Advisors, Inc. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

[1] Source: S&P data copyright 2018 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.


[2] Source: S&P data copyright 2018 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.


[3] Source: S&P data copyright 2018 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.


Be sure to sign up for our free

More To Explore