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If you’re a long-time investor, there’s something ominous about the stock-market pullback in early September.

Fall has historically been a volatile period for stocks, most notably in 2008 as the global financial crisis unfolded. Stocks began falling during the summer, but it was after Labour Day when the bottom dropped out.

Fall 2020 might be the most difficult-to-anticipate period in ages for investors, thanks to the combination of a spectacular summer run-up for stocks, notably tech stocks, and the risk of a second wave of COVID-19. The economy is still recovering from round one of the pandemic and a renewed lockdown would be a huge setback.

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Here are some ways to prepare a portfolio for uncertainty ahead:

Pad your cash cushion if you’re retired

Take profits from stocks that have soared and use the proceeds to expand the cash component of a retirement portfolio. This is especially relevant for seniors who wait until late in the year to make their mandatory annual withdrawal from a registered retirement income fund. You don’t want to be forced into selling equities that have lost value after a possible market correction. You have a reasonable level of cash if you can fund two to three years' worth of RRIF withdrawals from cash.

Pivot to a more conservative investing approach

One way to throttle back on the risk level in your investing is to start putting money into a more diversified and conservative portfolio. The quick and easy way to accomplish this is to select a balanced exchange-traded fund with an appropriate mix of stocks and bonds. There are conservative, balanced and growth versions of these ETFs, all with varying asset mixes and low fees.

Get cash into your investing account right now

We know from the events of April and May that plunging stock markets can turn on a dime. So forget about trying to time the next stock market bottom. Instead, load cash into your account now and use it to buy strategically on very bad days for the market. Cash balances in brokerage accounts pay nothing, but the same now applies to many bank savings accounts.

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Build a to-buy list

When markets do fall, there will be a lot of chatter about paradigm changes and reckonings for the latest generation of market leaders. Avoid getting caught up in the speculation and uncertainty by building a Globeinvestor.com Watchlist of stocks you are ready and willing to buy when the price gets low enough, or the dividend yield gets high enough. Know what you want to buy before the sale begins.

-- Rob Carrick, Globe and Mail personal finance columnist

This is the Globe Investor newsletter, published three times each week. If someone has forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you or you’re reading this on the web, you can sign up for the newsletter and others on our newsletter signup page.

Stocks to ponder

Boralex Inc. (BLX-T) This dividend stock has defensive attributes, provides reliable income and has a solid growth profile. It’s also been the No. 1 performing stock in the S&P/TSX composite utilities sector index this year. Jennifer Dowty has this profile of the stock, and explains why it may deliver another annual return exceeding 40 per cent. (for subscribers)

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The Rundown

Short sales on the TSX: What bearish investors are betting against

Economist and Globe Investor contributor Larry MacDonald provides an update on TSX short-squeeze candidates and takes a deeper look at heavily shorted exchange-traded funds – notably the BMO Laddered Preferred Shares ETF. (for subscribers)

Forget oil – this is the commodity that will lead the loonie’s next moves

Commodity price strength and ultralow Federal Reserve interest rates should push the loonie higher in the months ahead but the anti-U.S. dollar speculative fervour may have gone too far in the short term. Scott Barlow analyzes the latest trends for the loonie and explains why copper is a key indicator. (for subscribers)

Looking for the next big stock market winners? Here’s where to look

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David Rosenberg shares his thoughts on when it’ll be time for investors to pull the trigger and get more exposure to equity markets - plus, what he thinks will be the next “big thing” to come out of this pandemic in terms of an investing theme. (for subscribers)

The fund managers, the sleuths and the mystery of the missing ESG

Investor demand for companies deemed to have high ESG standards has never been higher. ESG-focused funds manage US$1.1-trillion, more than double 2016 levels, according to industry tracker Morningstar. As much as anything, such investments are a way to mitigate risk. But that’s easier said then done. Reuters takes a detailed look at how some fund managers are approaching the challenges of this field of investing. (for subscribers)

Others (for subscribers)

The week’s most oversold and overbought stocks on the TSX

Friday’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

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Thursday’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

Friday’s Insider Report: CEO continues to accumulate shares in this consumer stock

Thursday’s Insider Report: Million-dollar trades made by three company leaders

Number Cruncher: Nine U.S.-listed basic materials sector stocks back in the picture after volatility

Number Cruncher: Saving for your child’s postsecondary education? Check out these target date funds

U.S. tech stock turbulence spreads into Canada

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Globe Advisor

Stock picks for taking a barbell approach amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Are you a financial advisor? Register for Globe Advisor (www.globeadvisor.com) for free daily and weekly newsletters, in-depth industry coverage and analysis, and access to ProStation - a powerful tool to help you manage your clients’’ portfolios.

What’s up in the days ahead

David Berman, Rob Carrick, Scott Barlow and Ian McGugan this weekend will take a look at what’s next for investors at what now feels like a critical moment for markets.

Click here to see the Globe Investor earnings and economic news calendar.

More Globe Investor coverage

For more Globe Investor stories, follow us on Twitter @globeinvestor

You may also be interested in our Market Update or Carrick on Money newsletters. Explore them on our newsletter signup page.

Compiled by Globe Investor Staff

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