Recent volatility may have caused some investors to panic and head for the exits, but a long-term focus can help put bear markets into perspective. Since 1949 there have been nine periods of 20%-or-greater declines in the S&P 500. And while the average 33% decline of these cycles can be painful to endure, missing out on part of the average bull market's 268% return could be even worse. The much shorter duration of bear markets —14 months on average — is also a reason why trying to time investment decisions can be difficult and is usually ill-advised. Rather than indiscriminate selling, investors who are nervous about heightened volatility may want to consider flexible equity funds with a history of resilience during downturns. Investors should also re-examine their bond exposure for excess risk, as diversification from equities is one of the primary roles of fixed income in a balanced portfolio.