Officials: Stay calm, don't make any sudden decisions based on emotion

SANDUSKY We don't know how many local stockbrokers happen to be Beatles fans. But Mon
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



We don't know how many local stockbrokers happen to be Beatles fans.

But Monday and Tuesday, as the stock market gyrated wildly, the famous rock band's golden oldie, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," became the unofficial soundtrack for local investment advisors trying to soothe nervous customers.

Several brokers and investment officials interviewed separately by the Sandusky Register Tuesday all said they are offering the same advice to their clients: Stay calm, and don't make any sudden decisions based upon emotion.

"The last 10 months, we've been managing emotions more than we've been managing money," said Dustin Ness, vice president of investments for the Sandusky office of Stifel Nicolaus & Company Inc.

"Mainly people just want some feedback, want some guidance," said Sean Serna, another Stifel vice president.

Generally, "what they are looking for is us to hold their hand," said Alison Morris, financial advisor for the Sandusky branch of Edward Jones.

Morris said she tells her clients not to take hasty actions.

"This is the worst time to do something," she said.

On Monday, after the U.S. House rejected a proposed bailout package for Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials fell 777 points. On Tuesday, the stock market closed with the Dow Jones industrials up 485 points.

Several of the brokers said Tuesday that although big stock market declines can be startling, reacting to them by selling stocks or mutual funds results in converting a paper loss into a real one.

"Volatility, fluctuations, that is not loss," Morris said. "That is not a loss until they sell."

"Market volatility can generally be ridden out," Ness said. "Selling at the low is generally the opposite of what you want to do."

In fact, it's generally a good idea to notice which way the herd is going, and to head in the opposite direction, he said.

"Typically, you should always do the opposite of the small investor," Ness said.

Investing in stocks is a long term proposition, and investors need to realize that along with big gains, they have to expect temporary large losses every few years, said George Steinemann, senior vice president at Citizens Bank and the managing director of the bank's Wealth Management Group.

"We expect this to happen every five or six years," said Steinemann, who cited big market drops in 2002 and in 1987.

A panic selloff usually is followed by several good years, he said.

It's also not a good time to dump risky investments and buy safer ones, which have become more expensive, he said.

Steinemann said Tuesday afternoon that he'd had two meetings that day with investors, spoken on the phone with two others, and keeps in touch monthly with all his clients.

He said that after he reviews the facts of investing in the stock market with them, "they generally see it's folly to see which way the market is going from day to day. If you are invested, you are invested in several years' time frame."

If an investor cannot understand that, "you shouldn't be in the stock market," he said.

The brokers said it's important for investors to diversify, rather than putting all their money in a few companies, a single sector of the market or a single type of investment.

Serna said when he sits down with new clients, he discusses financial goals and risk tolerance to help them devise a diversified investment portfolio.

"If you have a good investment and it's a bad market, you really want to stick with it," Serna said.

Similarly, Morris said she counsels her clients to concentrate on the fundamentals of investing and on their goals, to make sure they have a good plan, and to stick to it.

"I kind of remind them of what their goals are," she said. "I try to get people focused on what their goals have been."