JoAnne Anderson of Mississauga, Ont.-based MoneyPower Inc., is in a position to know that "People make very poor decisions when they panic." It seems that at least a few Canadians have panicked following the attacks on Sept. 11 -- at least as far as their investments go.
"I have been seeing some stats coming out that money market mutual funds have been attracting record amounts of money, and it's been coming out of equity funds in particular. I think that is a huge mistake as I suspect a lot of it is inside RRSPs. Selling low and buying high? If so, will people do this again ... and again every time things are uncertain?" wonders Carey Vandenberg at Vandenberg & Associates Inc. in White Rock, B.C.
To avoid this short-sightedness, Ms. Anderson recommends a reality check: Have your goals or resources changed? If so, are the changes permanent or temporary? Revisit your plan and portfolio and update it. "It is important to maintain a balanced approach to your investments," she says.
Avoid rash decisions, but do not go into ostrich mode, both experts agree.
A slower economy can offer certain opportunities, such as lower interest rates. Consider refinancing your mortgage or consolidating credit card debt, Ms. Anderson suggests. "Cast an eye toward long-term income-splitting. Both spouses should be building retirement assets equally, to minimize the income-tax bite in retirement."
Having a good financial plan with realistic retirement goals in times of uncertainty has never been more important.
A good financial plan is not simply about doing the annual registered retirement savings plan trek, it is about a careful analysis with an understanding of the thousands of variables that can make or break that plan. It is about being pro-active and "keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs," to quote Rudyard Kipling.
"The biggest value in a good financial planner/advisor is to offset peoples' emotions and keep the plan on track. In virtually all cases, investment success will be determined on how you react rather than the individual investment selections," Mr. Vandenberg says.
He says it is unfortunate many people are doing their investing and portfolio management themselves.