How to Handle A Stock Market Correction Without Panicking

Investing your money in the stock market can seem a bit overcomplicated and scary. Especially if you pay attention to the stock market news, they love the doom and gloom articles about the financial markets. 

Seriously, take a look at any major player in the financial and stock market media, you’ll quickly find some negative articles at the top of the feed.

Many times, it’s about a pending bear market or maybe a current stock market correction

And sure, these stock market corrections can be a bit scary and intimidating (thanks media for the scares), but you can protect yourself and stay the course if you understand corrections further. 

Below, I cover what a stock market correction is, how long a correction will last, and some investment strategy tips to stay sane during the madness that might ensue.

Also, even after you are armed with this knowledge, you’ll probably still make rash decisions. Much of this I learned early in my investing career and still panicked during corrections, so don’t feel bad if you make some mistakes.

What is A Stock Market Correction?

So what exactly is a stock market correction?

It’s simply when investments decline in value by 10% or more after a recent peak or all-time high. Corrections can happen to specific indexes, individual stocks, or one of the exchanges like NYSE, Nasdaq, Dow Jones, etc. 

Analysts, Wall Street, and active stock traders try to predict when these corrections will happen. But generally, it’s quite impossible to predict when a downturn may happen or even be accurate with any predictions.

For example, when will a correction happen in the US stock market, how long it will last, how much will it drop, — these are all predictions that cannot exactly be known.

Usually after the correction territory slows down and this period is over, the data will then start to point to the cause of the bearish market conditions.

Of course, looking at the data and analyzing can also help you protect against a stock market correction to some extent. But many times, it’s best to stick to your diversified portfolios and continue investing via dollar-cost averaging

Typically, what causes the market volatility and market correction can be one of these few things or a combo:

  • Failed earnings from companies on top of a negative economy outlook
  • Year end selling from losses, known as tax loss selling
  • Investors technical analysis may indicate patterns, that trigger them to sell aggressively
  • Fear of the market crashing or a financial crisis, which triggers emotional selling

There are other potential causes besides the above, but this gives you a quick understanding that many variables or combos can trigger a correction in the market and put panic in the bullish atmosphere.

Stock market correction vs. stock market crash

While stock market corrections are common (more on that below), there are also stock market crashes that can lead to recessions.

Although a bit more rare, I thought it would be important to share the difference compared to a correction before we get further into corrections and some tips. 

When the stock market crashes, this means a huge and sudden drop in stock prices happens, usually double digital percentages. Trading volume can still be very high, but there is more people selling than buying.

Typically this happens in a single day or can be for longer, like a week. When the stock market crash of 1929 happened, the market fell 48% in under two months, which triggered the Great Depression. 

However, after many stock market crashes settle, the market usually rebounds and trends upward for a long period of time.

If you want to learn more about stock market crashes, I recommended this article from The Balance

How Common Are Stock Market Corrections?

Now that you know what a stock market correction is, how often do they occur? Well, stock market corrections are incredibly common and do happen fairly often. It’s important to stay the course with your investing. 

Pending your age, you certainly can protect your assets as you get older by shifting your investment choices, but it’s common for the markets and assets to end up in correction periods. 

According to The Motley Fool,

“Stock market corrections occur, on average, every 1.87 years. Since 1950, the S&P 500 has undergone 37 separate stock market corrections of at least 10%, not including rounding (i.e., declines of 9.5% to 9.9%).”

How long will a stock market correction last?

Again, many experts will try to predict everything about a stock market correction, but getting the info 100% accurate is near impossible. Besides these common corrections at different time periods, each one can also last a different length of time. 

Again, based on some great data and information, The Motley Fool has shared this: 

“Cumulatively, the S&P 500 has spent 7,040 days declining in correction since 1950. Given that there have been 36 corrections, the average correction time is about 196 calendar days over the past 68 years.” 

And another thing to note after these stock market corrections, is typically a bull market rally (meaning markets go up) follows and erases all the losses.

Remember, this is not always true and sometimes the correction gets worse (hello, bear market). But again, it’s very hard to predict what exactly will happen. 

For investors who are bullish and not into short selling, this can be a bit scary to think about their money and investments can lose value.

But as the title of this post indicates, don’t panic! In the next section, I have some tips on what to do and how to stay sane during a correction. 

New York Stock Exchange

Stock Market Investing Tips to Prepare and Stay Sane During A Correction 

When a stock market correction happens, what do you do if you are invested? Probably the most common advice you hear is don’t panic.

But how often do newbie investors follow that advice?

For one, I knew that going when I first started and guess what I did each time for the first year when a correction happened and there was some economic slowdown? Well, I panicked! 

I did not wipe out all my investments by panic selling, but I certainly lost some money and messed up my compound interest rhythm. 

So what is one to do?

You’ll probably still make some mistakes during your investing, but practice some of these tips below to be prepared and stay sane during a stock market correction. 

Breathe and check your emotions

Simply breathe and ignore the markets for the day if you see negative numbers flashing and start to think logically. Easier said than done, but you need to avoid emotional investing. 

If you panic sell (or buy) too quickly into the correction hype, you’ll probably make rash investing decisions that you will later regret.

This may take some mental training on your end, but learn to leave any of your emotions at the door and take some deep breaths before pulling any selling or buying triggers. 

Avoid reading the major investing media

Many articles in the investing and finance world are negative, because that type of press sales and gets the clicks.

But the thing is, these “doom and gloom” articles dominate during stock market corrections. Hell, I’ve seen them while writing this article talking about an impending crash and stalls in economic growth! 

It’s okay to be informed and understand what is going on in the markets. But all the negative and click-bait headlines can drive you to make poor investing decisions.

Seriously, I found myself not knowing what to do because I was so enamored with the scary headlines in my early investing days. It’s a media trap! 

Do your own due diligence

Similar to being cautious with the media, do not blindly trust anyone’s advice about a stock market correction or what to do. That could be a writer, financial guru, friends, family, etc. 

Certainly getting advice can be a good thing, but don’t act on any advice without doing your own research on what you might have heard. 

No one truly knows what or why the stock market correction is happening, so their advice may cost you money or future gains. With anything, you should never blindly follow along without understanding the advice. 

Have some cash ready to buy

When stock market corrections happen, this can be a golden opportunity to buy. Sure, you won’t be able to predict the exact lowest share price of equities or bonds, but it can be a great time to buy more shares. 

One of the best things you can do as you invest over the years, is leave a portion of money in cash.

When stock market corrections happen — or “go on sale” — you are prepared to buy while others are panic selling. 

As much as I cheer for bull markets, I enjoy a good stock market correction to re-up on great index funds.

Keep some cash on the sidelines too

Even though it is great to have cash ready to buy during most corrections, you also do not want to go all in.

This is especially true if you have not done your research or have a decent understanding of what the markets are doing.

It’s always good to keep cash on the sidelines to not only protect from major losses, but from any bad purchase decisions you may have not thought through.

You may potentially miss some minor opportunities, but it can help keep you sane when you really do not know what you are doing. 

There were quite a few corrections where I just left the money on the sidelines instead of buying. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and felt more comfortable with keeping cash.

Now, I always leave a percentage of money in the investment accounts that are not for buying or investing. 

Ask yourself what type of investor you are currently

Pending where you are at in life, your investing style may reflect on what you do or don’t do during a stock market correction.

For example:

  • Long-term investor? Stick to your plan and practice dollar cost averaging.
  • Short-Term investor? Be more prepared to sell or buy. Essentially you’ll be on your toes to take action. 
  • Close to retirement? Your investment account should already be conservative and balanced, but make additional protections to ensure your money is best protected as possible

Continue to prepare and expect future corrections

Even when the economy and the stock market is in a great bull run, you should always be prepared and expect more stock market corrections.

Based on the data I shared about earlier, it’s inevitable that it will happen again. 

You won’t be able to predict the exact day or reasons why, nor will you know how long it will last. Instead, all you can do is know that it will happen, practice the tips above, and be mentally and financially prepared. 

Is the Stock Market Going to Correct?

Yes, a stock market will correct at some point during your investing timeline. It’s entirely common and completely unavoidable aspect to the stock market. A drop in 10 percent or greater from the most recent peak is common and can also be good for overvalued markets.

Now, if prices drop by 20 percent or more, it is then called a bear market and there could be some potential trouble in the markets down the road.

What Is The Average Length of A Stock Market Correction?

A stock market correction can be brief or last for longer for periods of time like a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. However, the average market correction generally lasts anywhere between two and four months. It also may occur one to two times in a given year.

Looking for more tips related to investing money? Here’s what you need to know first as you get started.

Did you panic during your first stock market correction? What do you do to stay sane when it happens now? Let me know in the comments below!