When the stock market is in the news, don’t ignore your fear. Talk about it.

The stock market has been in the news lately, and usually when that happens it means the news isn’t good. People who don’t pay attention to the markets every day and haven’t looked at their retirement plan statements in years are bombarded with words and pictures like this:


Or this:


Public radio listeners who know what it means when Kai Ryssdal says Cue the sad trombones! haven’t gotten much of a break lately either.

A lot of financial advice-givers will tell you in times like this to ignore the news and delete your 401(k) statement. That might have been good advice back when tuning out meant simply changing the TV channel, but in this interconnected and news-driven world, ignoring the news means missing out on what most of your friends and colleagues are talking about as well. Maybe you’ll be marginally less fearful, but is it worth becoming a lot more lonely instead?

I would suggest a different approach. Emotion – namely fear and greed – is the enemy of good investment decisions, and while you can’t really choose which emotions to feel, you can do a lot to defuse them by openly discussing what you’re feeling with people you trust. If fear is a primal human emotion, the desire to be social – the feeling that there is safety in numbers – is no less ingrained in our minds.

If the news about the markets is causing you fear and anxiety, find a good friend to talk to or an advisor whom you trust. Many people are probably feeling the same way, and it will ultimately do everyone a lot more good to put those feelings out there openly than to have our heads collectively buried in the sand.