The stock market collapsed quickly, old savers at a loss

“The timing could not have been worse,” said the Canton resident, who also has a son in his freshman year of college. “Here I thought I had a lot of money to pay for four years [of school]Now that’s not the case… You don’t know if you should take [the money] Now or not, that’s frustrating.”

Like many people, Gallery can’t even look at his retirement portfolio now — even at 51, seeing the decline is deeply unsettling. And as the markets deteriorate, financial planners say the influx of new and old customers is so Reach out for advice.

“We definitely get a lot of calls from people looking to work with a financial advisor they may not have seen in the past,” said Michael Murray, president of Peabody Wealth Advisors at Danvers. “I think all clients are worried when the market goes down so quickly, especially if they have kids who are nearing college, or they’re nearing retirement.”

Paul Doyle, 63, is planning to retire after working for 35 years at utility giant Eversource, long enough that it was called Boston Edison when he started there. His pension and 401(k) are in good shape thanks to years of investments, but the volatile economic situation has put him on edge. He will continue to work to pay for the renovations of his Cape Cod home, where he moved last fall from Abington, as well as a loan to purchase an adjustable-rate home that may be difficult to pay off as interest rates rise. Doyle does not want to work after 65 and will reevaluate his retirement plan in the fall.

“It’s still scary because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Doyle said. “But I don’t think this will change [retirement] plans.”

Now 63, Doyle does not want to work after 65 and will reevaluate his retirement plan in the fall.David L Ryan/The Globe Stuff

As they usually do during bear markets, financial advisors remind clients that investing is a long-term endeavor. However, it’s “uncomfortable” to experience paper losses near retirement or college, said Chris Boyd, founder of Asset Management Resources in Hyannis.

“What’s important for investors to think about is that they should gradually prepare for these things when it comes to their portfolio, and step out of their risks as they approach retirement or college,” Boyd said.

At 66, Kevin O’Connor of Salem is nearing retirement after 28 years as a business owner. A seasoned investor, no stranger to market volatility, says he won’t change his retirement plans despite the current downturn.

“I am very confident the market will come back, it has always been,” O’Connor said. “I’ve never sold anything I own and I’ve always been invested in buying and holding.”

Galerie, Canton’s father, is also sticking to his original plan when it comes to paying his children’s tuition fees. He still puts money into his 529 plan every month and hasn’t spent any money – until now. He reached out to several experts for advice on how to pay tuition during a downturn, but was frustrated with the variety of solutions he’d heard, ranging from investing in bonds over stocks to withdrawing money from the account.

“The market is so volatile that no one can really predict it, and you hear so many different stories you don’t know what to believe,” he said. “It’s hard to get an exact right answer, and I don’t think there really is one.”

Mark Scribner, managing director of oXYGen Financial’s Boston office, said the sale now is adding to the losses people have seen so far this year. With stock prices falling, he said, it’s actually a prime time for those with cash and a longer time horizon to invest more in college and retirement plans.

“When we go into a bear market or a recession, people just benefit, and then they lose that opportunity to go back to where they started,” he said. “So spending money means locking in losses and losing recovery.”

While planning retirement, Doyle will continue to work to pay for the renovation of his Cape Cod home, where he moved last fall from Abington.David L Ryan/The Globe Stuff

However, Scribner said that those who need to convert their shares into cash soon may be “in trouble,” and may need to tap equity into homes – at newly higher interest rates – or work for longer. If the bear market continues, more people could postpone their retirement, said Patrick Ney, partner at Boston Retirement Group.

“We are seeing a national trend with retirees returning to the workforce because there is such demand for labour, and in some cases part-time work,” Ni said. “And as prices go up, you might see people saying, ‘Well, if you work 10 hours a week, it’s going to make up for those increased expenses. “

Advisers say the economic downturn is part of a normal financial cycle, and a good reminder to stay on top of financial plans and build an emergency fund.

“Events like this don’t surprise us, but it never feels good when you’re in them,” Murray said. “Whether it’s sunny or windy, people still need to save to retire and go to college, so you still need to have a plan whether the markets are up or down.”


Annie Probert can be reached at annie.probert@globe.com.

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