This month, the U.S. stock market hit an all-time record-high of over 22,000 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This rise represents a 20 percent return since November 2016 and a more than 300 percent return since a low of about 6,600 in March 2009. Managing expectations, as an investor during such a strong bull market can be difficult.

Stock market investors have enjoyed a string of steady positive returns for the better part of two years now without any meaningful correction. A meaningful correction would be a pullback in the 8 percent to 10 percent range, which from the current levels would constitute a fall of about 2,000 Dow points. As shocking as that sounds, a correction or pull back of any level would be a natural occurrence in the financial markets.

The reality is financial markets do not usually march straight upward without some type of bump or hiccup that would cause it to drop and pull back for a rest. It’s normal to experience some kind of volatility or downward movement in the course of investing. Likewise, the recent stretch of market appreciation, while welcome, is not typical.

When the inevitable and natural occurrence of a market decline takes place, remember the following things to help you manage expectations through the downturn:

  • Stay diversified. Even if it doesn’t feel right, history shows that this strategy works.
  • Avoid jumping in and out of the market. It is virtually impossible to time the market.
  • Invest regularly. The potential to buy investments at discount prices can only happen if you are involved when things look bleak.
  • Market corrections, no matter how painful, are a natural part of an economic cycle.

Finally, stay in communication with your advisor as changes take place in your life or even if you just want some perspective on market movement. An important role we play in our clients’ lives is managing expectations, or being an “emotional surge protector,” when these unavoidable declines take place.