How Should Investors React to the Coronavirus?

What is different this time and how should investors react to the Coronavirus?

First, note that I didn’t say “how we should react as fellow human beings” to the Coronavirus.

Concerns about health-related issues are always serious and any human suffering should not be taken lightly.  Our thoughts and wishes are for everyone to remain healthy and well.

Related to investing, however, keep in mind that the markets have experienced many shocks before, including ones that were health related.

Emotional headlines are also nothing new and will remain.

As we’ve said before, when the market is down big, one thing is surely up big.  Emotional sales presentations of so-called “down-side protection” products.

What should investors do?

If you have a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and cash, likely nothing.

We can’t give specific advice without understanding everyone’s situation, but if you have an investment policy statement that sets long-term targets for stocks, bonds and cash, stick to it.

Related to this, consider the following headlines that we wish would’ve run this morning:

“Balanced Portfolios Remain Stable and are Even for the Year”

“Balanced Portfolios Are Up 30% Over the Past 3-Years”

The chart below could have then accompanied an article to illustrate the story.

Source: Blackrock. Performance represents 60% in Blackrock S&P500 ETF (IVV) and 40% in Blackrock U.S. Core Agg (AGG). Performance is based on prices as of the end of trading on 2/25/20 and fixed weightings. Results will vary depending on the funds and methodology used and past performance is not indicative of future results.  FWP cannot verify the accuracy of the calculations we were provided by Blackrock and investors should not rely on it for investment decisions.

When should you take action?

If you don’t have a diversified plan that is anchored on an Investment Policy Statement, get one.

Investment policy plans don’t need to be complex.

At Fiduciary Wealth Partners, we work with clients to help set long-term investment goals, and establish risk, liquidity and asset allocation targets designed to meet these objectives before we invest (emphasis on “before”).

It’s been our experience that, if you write down goals prior to investing, it is easier to stick to a plan versus letting emotion or the competition of the market take over (we are all human).

An Investment Policy Statement (IPS) can simply set long-term targets for various asset classes and maximum and minimum risk control ranges around the targets. This way, regardless of the emotion of the market, you can keep yourself from making big bets that can turn into big mistakes.

As an example, a moderately risk-adverse investor might consider having a long-term target of 60% in equities with a low-end range of 50% and a high-end range of 70% (generally, the tighter the ranges the greater the risk control).

If the market drops significantly and the equity allocation goes below the minimum range, the IPS mandates that an investor buy. On the other hand, if the market has run up significantly, the maximum IPS ceiling forces selling to take some chips off the table. We recommend reviewing allocations and potentially rebalancing back to long-term targets quarterly.

For more on how a similar approach deploying only a few index funds has consistently outperformed some of the more complex, well-resourced and well-researched strategies in the world, read the following:

Do You Need… ?

More on how Wall Street has a poor record of picking managers and strategies that can outperform in good times or bad, and how they also have a “spectacular zero” percent track record of predicting down turns, can be found in these articles:

Fallible Forecasts

Are Selectors Good at Selecting?

In saying all of this, we’re not suggesting that fear about health-related issues are irrational.  They can be quite personal and should be taken seriously.


Even though the evidence consistently suggests that market forecasts and hot manager picks aren’t worth much, we aren’t saying that you shouldn’t look at data and keep an eye out for opportunities.  Data can absolutely help you develop a long-term plan you feel comfortable enough to stick with through both good and bad headlines.

All we’re trying to reinforce is this.

Nothing tends to be different related to the long-term effectiveness of this very old saying about the virtues of a simple diversified plan:

“I thank my fortune for it,

My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,

Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate

Upon the fortune of this present year:

Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad.”

Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare