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This week has been a tough one to watch for stock investors. As Wall Street buckles in for what appears to be an extremely bumpy ride downward to close out 2018, money experts are telling investors to hang in there. When the markets become volatile, the bad news is that you have essentially missed your window to cash out. If you possibly can, they say, just ignore the “noise” and wait for the recovery.

Of course, this is much easier said than done if you happen to be looking at retirement in the near future. With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day at present according to Motley Fool and the AARP (and really, who can argue with that combination?), there are a lot of people out there who cannot afford to sit quietly and try to tune out the noise of a sinking market. We are undeniably in a bear market now; the question is simply when we will climb out.

How To Sit Tight in a Downturn

Most analysts agree that a bear market is not the time to liquidate your stock investments, but they also tend to focus heavily on investors with long timelines when they issue this type of advice.

Doug Bellfy, a certified financial planner at Synergy Financial Planning, told CNBC Money just days ago, “If you have 40 years left to invest, a bear market right now is just noise and should be ignored; in fact, often celebrated.” However, he hastened to add (and not very helpfully), “A stock market crash that starts the day after you retire can cause a permanent lifestyle impact if all your money is invested there.”

Thanks for the insight, Doug. We did, indeed, have some concerns about that latter timeline.

It Does Not Have to Be This Way

While the market is going to go down and, at some point, back up, even if you were considering postponing your retirement indefinitely you have options. What Bellfy said about all your money being invested in the stock market is key, because that money does not have to be there.

Most Americans believe several crucial untruths about their retirement accounts:

  1. They think they have to invest wherever their company management says they do
  2. They believe the stock market is just where retirement investing happens
  3. They think that retirement lifestyle and options rely on savings

In reality, you have options. You have a lot of options. But you are going to have to stop relying on Wall Street to make your money for you, and you are probably going to have to roll your IRA into some other account with a custodian or administrator who will let you self-direct those funds into something stable, predictable, and cash-flowingthat can withstand stock market bumps and even economic swings.

What Are Your Options Today?

If you were seriously considering retirement tomorrow and your retirement capital is all tied up in the stock market, you are going to have to be pretty strategic about how you access that capital. Furthermore, you must begin to think of that money as investment capital, not savings to be spent. Your portfolio is probably taking a huge hit right now, so if you can afford to listen to Bellfy and wait things out, you might want to hold off on liquidating everything. Remember, investors who resisted the desperate and natural urge to cash out in 2008 would have ended up with about 7.2 percent returns, overall, between whatever money was in their account right before the financial meltdown and today. Those returns may not be astronomical, but they beat the roughly 3 percent that those who cashed out, then put their money back in later, made over the same time period. So, if you already are invested in the markets, consider trying to ride things out with at least part of your capital while taking steps to seize control of that capital in the interim.

What steps should you take in the interim? Well, that is pretty simple:

First, you need to get control of your retirement investment capital. That probably means leaving your current account custodian and finding a company that will let you self-direct your own retirement into stable, predictable, high-return, cash-flowing assets like real estate or other alternative investments. You need a company that enables you to control your assets and make your own decisions about investing in everything from precious metals to intellectual property.

Second, do some research on the best investment vehicles for you. You will hear a lot about all the things other people have done with their retirement accounts and, in the process, a lot of service providers and investment managers are going to offer to guide you through the process of investing in everything from cryptocurrency to venture capital. These may be great investments, but you have a responsibility now to educate yourself about every investment in advance because you are about to seize the reins of your retirement for yourself. You don’t have to go it alone, but you do have to do some due diligence and make sure you align yourself with educators and service providers who are actually on your side, not the side of some off-the-wall investment experiment that will not serve your needs.

Third, create an action plan. Once you know what you need to do in order to rescue your retirement from permanent limbo in the stock market, take charge and take action. Remember, it is not necessarily the best route to pull all your money out of your account at once, but you will need to work with a self-directed account custodian or administrator to take whatever measures are necessary to get at least part of your funds in a vehicle that gives you some control (and, don’t worry, some tax advantages, too) over them. Once you have those funds in hand, which may take a while depending on your current administrator, be prepared to invest in the new vehicle quickly rather than waiting around for too long. Holding your money in a retirement account and is a crucial and often fatal mistake. Remember, it does not pay to treat your retirement capital like savings to be spent. Treat it like investment capital to be multiplied, protected, and leveraged so you never have to try to “tune out” a stock market crash again.

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