After getting off to a fast-and-furious start following the presidential elections—with the Dow Jones industrial average racing past the 21,000 mark for the first time in history—the stock market shifted into neutral in early spring. And then it was thrown for a loop, as controversies and investigations in Washington threatened the Trump administration’s agenda of infrastructure spending and tax cuts.
Time for investors to slam on the brakes? Hardly. You shouldn’t assume that the growing hazards on Wall Street are a sign that the eight-year-old bull market is nearing an end.
Instead, consider this moment as the stock market’s equivalent of a yellow flag, offering investors a much-needed break to slow down and make any needed fixes or adjustments to their investments, not just for the next few laps but for the long race ahead.
To be sure, a midyear portfolio review may not seem all that necessary, given how well benign neglect has been working in your favor lately. Over the past five years, for example, U.S. equities have delivered annualized total returns of 15%. That’s five percentage points higher than the long-term historical average for stocks—with nary a bear market in sight.
What’s more, even with the recent slowdown in stocks, the S&P 500 index is still up 8% so far in 2017 while the Nasdaq composite index has gained more than 15%. Both indexes have recently hit their all-time highs.
Even if you haven’t been a dedicated re-balancer—that is, if you haven’t periodically reset your mix of stocks, bonds, and other asset classes back to your desired allocations— you really haven’t paid a price for letting your winners run. And run. And run.
At least so far. “Bull markets can lull you into doing nothing as they make all investors look smart,” says Hans Scheil, chief executive officer of Cardinal Retirement Planning in Cary, N.C. “But the time to review your portfolio is before a market correction, not after.”
The odds are also good that after an eight-year-old bull market—which ranks as the second longest rally in history—your perception of risks may be somewhat diminished. Behavioral experts refer to this as recency bias, when investors are predisposed to believe that their investments will continue to perform as they have been doing.
On the other hand, your tolerance for investment risk probably has not changed all that much. If anything it has gotten more conservative as you are now nearly a decade closer to your financial goals, including funding a long and comfortable retirement. “I tell people to enjoy this bull market but make sure that you’re not taking on more risk now,” says New York City investment adviser David Schneider.
Here’s how to make sure your investment risks are under control and give your portfolio a thorough once-over to ensure that it—and you—are ready for the long road ahead: