Color of Money: Four lessons from the stock market if you're looking for love

Michelle Singletary on

There's a lot that couples can learn from the turbulence we're seeing in the stock market.

Investors, like couples in love, can get lulled into such a blissful state that they forget that the honeymoon doesn't last forever. After a long bull market, investors are reawakening to the reality that markets can fall -- and fast.

I was thinking about this correlation while considering writing a love and money column for Valentine's Day. After the roses have wilted and the candy has been eaten, can your love withstand financial volatility? Here are four lessons couples can learn from the current stock market downturn.

-- You've got to have a plan. I've worked with people who, when I ask them to tell me their investment strategy, just stare back at me with no clue about what I mean. But it's times like this, when the market is trending down and making people panic, that you need to ask yourself: What's my investment plan?

Are you just throwing money into your workplace retirement account without knowing where your funds are invested? If so, you may find that you're not aggressive enough or that you're taking too much risk. The younger you are -- depending on your tolerance -- the more you can afford to risk. But if you're closer to retirement, you want to make sure you're not being too risky at a time when you'll soon need to live off your investments.

In either case, you're less likely to be panic-stricken by a plunge in the stock market if you have a plan.

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Likewise, when looking for a financial soulmate, what's your plan? I wanted to marry a saver. I didn't want to be married to someone who thought a credit card was his emergency fund. What are your non-negotiables?

-- Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment. Some investors are in full panic mode right now. I understand the fear. You see gains disappearing and you become concerned about your financial future. But if you've got a long horizon ahead -- 20 or more years until retirement -- this current market storm may just be a blip.

The same advice goes for looking for a soulmate. Don't let your feelings cause you to ignore financial red flags. Love does not conquer all.

More than half of Americans with debt said it has negatively impacted their life. Of those, one in five said the debt is causing tension in their relationships with a spouse or partner, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).


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