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Financial Adviser: 5 Ways to Handle Your Investment Losses During a Stock Market Crash

Learn to handle losses in order to become a good investor.
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The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) has so far lost more than 700 points or 12 percent from its peak this year and could lose some more given the prevailing negative sentiment in the market.

Although interest rates have corrected recently, which gave rise to a short-term rally in the market last week, the relatively elevated interest rates still make the stock market overvalued.

The PSE Index is currently holding at its key support at 6,100 level, but a breakdown from this level in the coming months should the peso exchange rate continues to weaken, the stock market could test its pandemic low at 4,500.

If you are holding on to some stocks that are losing, should you cut your losses now or wait for it to recover?

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Although blue-chip stocks historically recover over long-term because institutional investors will always buy them back when market sentiment improves, there are stocks that may never recover at all.

Holding on to these stocks believing that they will bounce back someday while your losses mount as share prices fall may be financially damaging.

Perhaps, instead of hoping to break even, you should find out the chances of the stock’s recovery based on its fundamentals.

If there are no fundamental bases for you to hold on to the stock, it may be better to sell it now and end your pain. You can use the proceeds to buy another value stock that is more promising to help you recover your losses later on.

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Losing your hard-earned money in the stock market can be an emotional issue. You may never want to invest again after this for fear of another loss. The trauma and experience that you go through may discourage you from investing in stocks again.

If you want to become a successful investor, you need to handle your losses by managing your emotions and moving on. Here are the five things you can do when you try to deal with investment losses:

1| Learn to own up to your losses

It is not easy to admit that you have made a wrong investment decision. Accept that you have made a mistake.

Maybe you had the chance to sell the stock at a good price but you delayed it hoping that it would go higher only to miss it when the stock started to fall sharply.

Or maybe you were taken by your emotions when you bought the stock at a high price and you did not want to cut your losses when the stock has fallen beyond your loss tolerance.

You will probably feel some anger and resentment at your stockbroker who gave you the wrong recommendation. Maybe you may also feel betrayed by the people you talked to for investment advice. How come they did not advise you to do something to prevent you from losing?

While it is easy to blame your broker or friends who gave you the wrong tips, at the end of the day, it is you who should become responsible for your losses because you made the decision to buy.

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2| Learn to put your losses in the right perspective

It is painful to take a capital loss, especially when it has already ballooned. It can be devastating not only financially but emotionally.

If you are the type who cannot express your feelings properly, you may suffer from emotional grief that may lead you to depression.

For example, you may equate your losses in the stock market as your personal failure. The thought of losing a lot of money in stocks will always haunt you and make you feel like a loser.

When this happens, try to think about when you had the worst problem in your life and how you managed to overcome it. Whatever financial losses you may have incurred, take comfort in the fact that you will always have a second chance to make it right and recover in the future.

3| Learn to manage your risks by limiting your losses

When you have learned your mistakes, make sure that you will never commit the same mistakes again in the future. Try to come up with a better plan that will cater to your risk appetite and investment goals. You can do this by knowing the company that you try to invest so you can lower your risks.

For example, if you are careful this time not to lose so much money, you can try to diversify your investment portfolio by limiting a certain allocation percentage per stock.

Let’s say you will budget each stock to have maximum allocation of 12.5 percent only so that when you need to sell this stock at 20-percent loss, the total damage to your portfolio will only be 2.5 percent.

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You can also put a stop loss for every stock you buy to budget the losses that you can tolerate. For example, if you bought a stock at P100 per share and, assuming your maximum tolerable loss is 10 percent, you would need to cut your loss by selling the stock when its share price falls to Php90 per share.

4| Learn to invest better by honing your trading skills

If you feel that you lack the knowledge and skills to execute a sensible investment strategy, you should invest your time reading books or attending seminars.

When you know more about investing, you will feel more confident in making a decision to buy or sell stocks. You will rely less on recommendations and tips from other people and become more independent with your stock picks.

Always challenge yourself to learn something new about investing. Do your research and make your own opinion. The more you learn, the better your decision-making will be.

5| Learn to take a vacation and unwind

If you are experiencing too much emotional stress that it is already affecting your investment judgment, it is advisable that you take a break from investing and get a vacation.

Try to recharge your mind and body by resting. While taking your vacation, review the steps you took before you came up with your trading decision.

What were you thinking when you tried to chase the stock at a high price? What were your regrets and how should you avoid this next time? Did you feel panic when the stock was falling? How should you manage your risk and control your losses?

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Losses in the stock market are normal. It is not the loss itself that matters but how you deal with it. If you can’t handle the heat, take a break and relax.

Henry Ong, RFP, is an entrepreneur, financial planning advocate and business advisor. Email Henry for business advice [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @henryong888 

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