2 things investors should do in a bear market

Bear markets are nothing to fear, if you stay focused on the long term.

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This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Stock market headlines aren't pretty right now. The S&P 500 Index (SP: .INX) experienced its worst first half of the year since 1970. It is in a full-blown bear market and with lingering economic issues, things could get worse before they get better. It can be difficult for investors to navigate these stressful times.

However, the basic game plan shouldn't change for those focused on the long term. Let's look at two steps that long-term investors can take to sail through this challenging period.

1. Avoid panic selling

When the going gets rough, it can be tempting to resort to panic selling (that is, offloading shares of companies you own in anticipation of a coming stock decline). This tendency is a bit understandable. If markets are going to keep falling, perhaps it's best to limit your losses. But it is not a wise strategy, at least not for those focused on the long game.

Market downturns don't last forever and, on average, bull markets tend to last longer than bear markets. That's why holding onto shares of excellent companies even through the worst market crash is worth it. Here is some evidence. The S&P 500 bottomed out in March 2020 following the coronavirus-induced bear market. Since then, the index is up by 71% -- even after its recent slide.

Chart showing rise in the S&P 500 from mid-2020 through early 2022, followed by decline.

^SPX data by YCharts

However, reassessing your investments can be great when a bear market hits. Has the investment thesis of any of your holdings fundamentally changed for the worse? If so, it might be worth considering selling. If not, dumping your shares is the opposite of a good idea. If anything, a bear market is a good time to purchase more shares of the excellent companies you own. This brings us to our second point.

2. Pick up bargain stocks 

Market crashes don't discriminate. Even companies performing exceptionally well or those with excellent prospects often end up being pulled down by the rest. The result: You can find plenty of great stocks that have been thrown in the discount bin. And once the market does recover, you will reap the benefits.

Let's look at a company that looks too cheap to ignore at current levels: Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC). True, the telemedicine specialist has had its share of troubles. That includes the company's massive $6.7 billion net loss in the first quarter, although it was due to a non-cash impairment charge related to its 2020 acquisition of Livongo Health. Teladoc overpaid for this acquisition.

Despite this and other issues, Teladoc looks far too cheap as its shares have now fallen below their pre-pandemic levels. That makes little sense, considering the company's standing in the telemedicine industry and its progress during the pandemic. In all likelihood, telemedicine is here to stay.

The technology is convenient for physicians and patients and helps the latter save money. The flexibility of telehealth services can also allow healthcare providers to attend to more patients overall. All these benefits should lead to greater utilization of telemedicine in the coming years.

Teladoc has already built a network of physicians offering hundreds of sub-specialties, along with more than 11,000 associated care locations. Plus, more than 50% of the Fortune 500 companies and some of the largest health insurers are on its client list. Meanwhile, the company's business keeps growing.

In the first quarter, Teladoc's revenue increased by 25% year over year to $565.4 million, while its total visits jumped by 35% to 4.5 million. Average revenue per U.S. member and total paid memberships were also on the rise. Despite the red ink on the bottom line, Teladoc continues to make headway in the telemedicine market.

And given that the industry seems to have a bright future, Teladoc is an excellent healthcare stock to consider buying on the dip

Keep your eyes on the prize

Bear markets can be stressful, but a disciplined and patient approach can help you get through them. Reassessing your investments and taking advantage of others' decisions to panic sell are great moves to consider in these troubling times. In five years, the market will almost certainly be substantially up from its current levels, and those who held on will be glad they did.

This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Prosper Junior Bakiny has positions in Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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