Investors who remain invested tend to fare far better in the years after a market downturn than those who sell and try to jump back into stocks.
"We are glad to see that a majority of our investors stayed the course during the recent market volatility, as there can be a significant cost to cashing out during this time," said Ward.
While call volumes and web traffic spiked, less than 2% of T. Rowe Price's 401(k) investors took any investment action during the August 2015 and January 2016 market fluctuations, according to Ward.
From the beginning of 1926 to Dec. 31, 2015, the S&P 500 Index has produced positive returns in every rolling 15 calendar year period and these periods include volatility like we have recently experienced and much worse like the Great Depression, the 1973-1974 bear market and the 2000 tech bust, according to T. Rowe Price.
Ward said those investors still contributing to their retirement plans should take advantage of the volatility to pick up shares of companies that may have unjustifiably sold off. She also said it's a good time to rebalance accounts to meet target allocations.
Of course, black swans and market crashes do occur and they can ravage a portfolio. Nevertheless, Ward said that the market corrections in the past few decades only prove her point about not trying to time the market.
"We've got some experience with this now and we can tell investors to keep a long term perspective if their goals are long term," said Ward, adding that it "might take a little while" for an account to recover and grow, but history is on the side of staying the course.