Like many of you, I have read lots of stock market headlines and articles over the past few weeks ranging from the extreme to the outrageous. Most focus narrowly on one issue or another: China, Oil, the Middle East, etc. and all without a meaningful discussion on what it all means to our long term investing success.

Now is also not a time to sugar coat – no matter the headlines, this is a very difficult time in the markets because of the uncertainty that exist globally. In fact stocks have had the worst start to any new year ever!

Instead of reacting to the headlines, it is important to focus on the things you can control and central to your thinking should be asking yourself “What does this mean for me and what should I be doing?”

First, make sure you have a plan. And by a plan I don’t mean an exit strategy or putting all of your money in gold. I am referring to both an investment plan and an income plan. Understand your investment portfolios as well as your spending and savings goals. These plans should be designed specifically to help meet your goals, taking into account your probability of meeting those goals based on scenarios like we are experiencing in 2016, and several others, both for the better and worse. It is crucial that you or your advisor do not assume an average market return, but instead factor in the markets potential down side when creating a plan. Most importantly continue to review and analyze your plan as the markets continue to evolve.

Second, take a moment to really think about your risk capacity and risk tolerance. Your risk tolerance is the amount of risk you are comfortable taking—this is an intangible number that often doesn’t have real meaning until there is a down turn…understand the possible downside that your portfolio may assume, and make sure you can live through it. Is your number -10%, 20% or 40%? Get comfortable with this number. Your risk capacity is the level of risk you must take in order to meet your goals…for some this means taking more risk, for others it is less—but it is always unique to you. A down market is the best time to test your risk tolerance.

Lastly, turn off the TV and the noise. Hire a financial advisor who will assume this burden for you. Find an advisor who is actively watching and listening to the markets and evaluating their clients’ portfolios and plans: you shouldn’t have to ride this roller coaster alone!

The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered insurance, legal or tax advice. Please consult with an insurance, legal or tax professional for additional information. Charleston Investment Advisors is part of The Wealth Management Alliance LLC, a registered investment adviser. TW 15-016 (11/17).