14 Things You Can Do When Markets Scare You

Valerie Peck |

Why are people more afraid of flying than driving, even though car wrecks are far more frequent? As one academic suggests, “in a car, at least I know when to brake. In a plane, I have no control.”


This might also explain why many investors want to hit the brakes if they fear a market downturn is on the way. We’ve got no control over when the next one may occur, or how markets will react when it does. Still, even though your best bet is to buckle in and ride out market turbulence, it’s hard to do absolutely nothing in response.


Rather than trying to react to market mood swings by switching up your investments, here are 16 actions you can take. Each is within your control, and any of them can add real value to your financial well-being.



  1. Reduce debt. Pay off credit card balances and other high-interest loans.
  2. Cut unnecessary costs. Cancel subscriptions or services you haven’t used in months (magazines, streaming services, club memberships, credit cards, etc.).
  3. Negotiate on the rest. Manage insurance and other ongoing costs by seeking periodic competitive bids. Negotiate with vendors to reduce “fee creep.” Be a squeaky wheel!



  1. Freeze your credit. Shut out identity thieves with a freeze on your credit reports. It’s now free to freeze, and temporarily unfreeze your credit reports when needed.
  2. Freeze your kids’ credit. Unfortunately, kids are prime targets for identity thieves. Create and lock down their Social Security Number and credit reports, before anyone else does.
  3. Keep an eye on things. Order and review your free annual credit and Social Security reports.
  4. Establish a Trusted Contact Person (TCP). Name a TCP as an extra line of defense for your investment accounts. If your account custodian feels you are being financially exploited, they then have a back-up person they can talk to about some of their concerns.



  1. Establish or increase your retirement plan contributions. The more you invest toward retirement (or similar goals), the better you can employ compound interest and market returns to accelerate your efforts – especially if your employer matches your contributions.   
  2. Set up or beef up your emergency/rainy-day fund. It’s great to be investing toward tomorrow. But in an emergency, you may need cash today. Be sure to set enough aside, so you won’t need to take costly loans or sell holdings at inopportune times.
  3. Revisit your estate plans. Even if you’ve already established your estate plans, if it’s been a year or more since you’ve looked at them, odds are they’re due for a refresh.



  1. Declutter your portfolio management. Over time, most families end up with a confusing array of investment accounts across multiple custodians. Where possible, organize your accounts across fewer platforms, so you can better manage your moving parts.
  2. Unsubscribe from something. You may also have accumulated hordes of e-newsletters through the years. Some may be useful, but many others may merely distract. Pick a few you never read anyway, and unsubscribe (or, if the source is suspicious, mark them as junk).



  1. Educate your kids. Budgeting, goal-setting, spending … instill the financial basics early on to strengthen your kids’ future financial independence, as well as your own.
  2. Talk to your aging parents, adult children, or those designated in your estate planning. A few simple conversations can enhance your understanding of one another’s goals and values, and reduce unnecessary expenses when making multigenerational financial decisions.



Our greater goal is to help you oversee the many variables that can be controlled in your financial journey. In so doing, we’re also preparing to move more smoothly past the market’s inevitable rough spots.