Don’t freak out about the stock market or your 401(k) — do these 5 things instead


MarketWatch, February 7, 2018

A rocky week in the stock market has created panic among investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.08%  and S&P 500 SPX, -0.50%   both dropped more than 4% Monday, their biggest one-day percentage declines since 2011, before rebounding 2.3% Tuesday in volatile trade. The Dow is still at a level over 24,000 points, higher than it was one year ago.

Hyper-ventilating about every rise and dip isn’t time well spent, experts said. “There’s a lot of volatility, corrections are perfectly normal, and they have happened over and over,” said Rachel Podnos, an attorney and financial adviser based in Washington, D.C. “They’ll continue to happen. It’s just inevitable.”

Rather than freaking out about the market’s rough rollercoaster ride, there are several steps consumers can take to better their financial health in just a few minutes.

Distract yourself from alarming headlines

If you’re a relatively young, long-term investor, don’t even look at your account balance, Podnos said. It is too difficult at this point to predict the market’s levels years into the future, when young investors will be cashing out accounts such as their 401(k)s. Money that people are saving for short-term goals shouldn’t be invested in the market, she said.

So instead of obsessively checking account balances, distractions like working out or socializing with friends can be more beneficial, she said.

Exercise has even been linked to financial health; a 2016 study from the American Heart Association found that individuals who exercised moderately paid about $2,500 less in annual health care expenses related to heart disease than those who did not exercise.

Better yet: Do a job you can earn money for, like babysitting, dog walking or signing up for an app like TaskRabbit, Podnos said. Extra money can go toward debt or savings.

Just don’t distract yourself through “retail therapy,” Podnos said: Anxiety is linked to making financially risky decisions. And shopping to relieve stress and anxiety can leave you in a worse financial state than before.

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