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What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Bear Market

Make adjustments to your portfolio, but don’t abandon your strategy.

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Photo illustration: 731; Photos: Alamy

If there’s a silver lining for Main Street investors in the stock market turmoil of the past few months, it’s this: They now have a far more realistic idea of how much risk they’re willing to take—and a new appreciation for what portfolio diversification means.

The plunge in the S&P 500 late last year, 19.8 percent from its September high to its December low, wasn’t quite enough to meet the traditional definition of a bear market (unless you’re rounding up). And stocks have climbed back more than 9 percent since. Still, after a very long bull market, fear of missing out has suddenly morphed into worry about years of fat gains melting away. Some investors are taking a serious look at the risks in their portfolio for the first time in a while. Financial planners see it in their offices. “Our highest client acquisition periods are when the markets are getting murdered,” says Lou Stanasolovich, president of Legend Financial Advisors. “We live for this.”