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Americans Are Pausing Investments Because of the Russia-Ukraine War. Here's What It Could Cost Them

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  • Two-thirds of Americans worry the Russia-Ukraine war will hurt their wallets, with nearly half eager to save more cash and 42% delaying investments, according to a survey.
  • But sitting on cash during periods of stock market volatility may lead to missed opportunities, financial experts say.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is degrading Americans' financial outlook, sparking the desire to save more and postpone investing, according to a survey from MassMutual. But steering clear of stock market volatility may be a mistake, financial experts say.

Two-thirds of Americans worry the conflict will hurt their wallets, with nearly half eager to save more cash and 42% delaying investments, the report found.  

"For a year that started with such hope and optimism, many are extremely concerned about the U.S. economy," said Amanda Wallace, head of insurance operations with MassMutual, pointing to stress about day-to-day expenses and financial insecurity. 

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It's been a volatile period for the stock market as investors respond to news about the war, rising interest rates and soaring inflation, among other headlines. 

Investing hesitancy is common, particularly after a "liquidity event," such as selling a business, according to certified financial planner Dennis Morton, founder and principal at Morton Brown Family Wealth in Allentown, Pennsylvania. "Sometimes the language is 'I'll just wait until things settle down.'"

But pausing investments during market turmoil can be costly, he said, because sitting on cash may mean skipping opportunities to "put money to work" at lower prices, often missing out on the recovery.

Indeed, high returns may follow some of the biggest drops, research from Bank of America shows.

Since 1930, missing the S&P 500 Index′s 10 best-performing days every decade yielded a 28% total return. However, staying invested may have led to a 17,715% return, the company found.

These findings align with J.P. Morgan research, showing how the best market days often follow the worst ones, and there's an opportunity of cost of failing to stay invested.

"When we make a financial plan, we assume a certain rate of return over a given period of time," Morton said. "And missing out on a few days, weeks or months can change that rate of return and really put the plan in jeopardy."

Often, a long-term perspective may help minimize anxiety or the urge to panic-sell during stock market swings, experts say. 

"Whether markets rise or fall, my investing advice remains constant," said Jim Shagawat, a CFP and partner advisor at AdvicePeriod in Paramus, New Jersey. "Investing for retirement means a long-term strategy regardless of current market conditions."

Even with strong financial knowledge or skill, it can be unsettling to see large portfolio declines, he said. But it's critical to avoid emotional investing decisions. 

"Let's find that [asset] allocation you can stick with," Morton added, explaining the importance of knowing your risk tolerance and designing a portfolio to match.

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