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How Millennial Investors Can Keep Their Cool Even When the Stock Market Swoons

Updated: Mar 09, 2016 10:16 PM UTC

Ian Wishingrad may only be 30 years old, but he already considers himself an investing veteran. So when the market began to swoon in early 2016, he kept his cool.

It certainly helped that Wishingrad had someone to hold his hand. He works with a financial adviser to diversify the assets he has accumulated as he expands his creative marketing agency, Bigeyedwish.com.

"My risk tolerance is getting lower as my assets get substantially higher," Wishingrad says.

University of North Texas grad student Rigers Memko, 23, also kept his wits about him and did not sell any stocks when the market fell in early 2016.

Memko heads the student investment group at the school, which manages $600,000 in assets. Members focus on long-term investing. Their top holding is Apple, followed by such blue chips as Johnson & Johnson, Altria Group, Coca Cola and AT&T.

"The market right now is affected by global uncertainties and what is happening in China, in Europe, and with Russia, which I believe will pass, and the market will start picking up again," Memko says.

That conservative investing attitude is proving to be typical of millennials, many of whom grew up watching their parents investments get whacked when the market sank in 2008.

"Conventional wisdom is a younger investor would take more risk," says Mike Loewengart, E*Trade Financial Corp's vice president of investment strategy. But E*Trade's Q1 Streetwise report found millennials (25-34) were more bearish than older investors, and more interested in diversification - including a higher interest in international exposure, as well as commodities.

Erin Lowry, 26, who writes the Broke Millennial blog, says the careful attitude makes sense. "If you aren't totally sure how the stock market works and if your parents were burned in 2008, you look at it as gambling," says Lowry, who invests almost exclusively in index funds to spread her risk exposure.

Kathy Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity Investments, is concerned that millennials are keeping too much cash on the sidelines and not talking advantage of the fact that time is on their side.

"Their money only works for them when it is invested," Murphy says.

Four Tips

Murphy has four basic tips for millennial investors.

* Do not try to time the market. Get into stocks, bonds and other assets. Invest for the long-term.

* A target-date fund, which adjusts its asset allocation as you age, is a great solution to ensure your investments are poorly allocated for retirement.

* Avoid having too much cash. You are "treading water" return-wise if you do not invest it.

* Use time to your advantage. The power of compounding interest is key to achieving savings goals.

When it comes to individual stocks, TD Ameritrade says the stocks most traded by millennials (18-34) so far in 2016 are Apple, Netflix, Amazon.com and Facebook.

"They are investing in what they know," says Nicole Sherrod, managing director of trading at TD Ameritrade.

Indeed, Facebook and Apple have been highly profitable for Wishingrad. He sold his approximate $10,000 Apple investment, made as a teenager, for a cool $80,000. His Facebook investment more than quadrupled.

Memko, meanwhile, has one big investing regret: That he does not have more money to invest at lower valuations this year.

"This just allows for a better buying opportunity," Memko says.