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2023-08-30 • Updated

What Would Happen If the Stock Market Crashed

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The stock market plays a crucial role in the global economy, providing opportunities for investors to buy and sell shares of publicly traded companies. However, the stock market is not immune to periods of volatility, and one of the most terrifying events that can happen is a stock market crash.

In this article, we will explore the nature and implications of a stock market crash, learn about its historical occurrences, and discover steps to take if faced with such a situation as an investor.

What is a stock market crash?

A stock market crash is a sudden and severe decline in the overall value of the stock market. During a crash, stock prices plummet, often leading to panic selling and an erosion of investor confidence. Stock market crashes can have far-reaching consequences, yet there is a difference between them and market corrections.

Market corrections are normal and usually occur when prices decline by at least 10% from their recent peaks. By contrast, stock market crashes are relatively rare events, so it is essential to be prepared for them beforehand.

What are the reasons for a stock market crash?

Reasons for stock market crashes vary broadly. Crashes may happen amid economic downturns caused by a weakened economy, speculative bubbles where investors drive prices far beyond the intrinsic value of assets, geopolitical events such as wars or political instability, and many other reasons. While some conditions may increase the likelihood of a crash, the timing and severity of one remain unpredictable.

How long does it usually take?

The duration of a stock market crash can vary significantly, depending on its underlying causes and how quickly investor confidence can be restored. Some crashes may be relatively short, lasting only a few days or weeks, while others can extend over several months or even years.

The shortest recorded crash, known as Black Monday, occurred on October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by over 22% in a single day. However, the market recovered most of those losses within a year.

On the other hand, the longest-lasting crash in history triggered the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted until 1932. During this period, the stock market experienced a prolonged decline, losing nearly 90% of its value.

Major stock market crashes and their consequences through the years

The Wall Street Crash, 1929

Reason: Overvaluation of stocks and widespread market speculation.

Consequences: Financial devastation, economic turmoil, and massive job losses.

Black Monday, 1987

Reason: Lack of regulation and oversight in the US financial sector.

Consequences: Severe declines in major stock indices, loss of investor confidence, and volatility in financial markets.

Japanese Asset Price Bubble, 1989-1992

Reason: Weak financial systems, corporate governance, and speculative investments in real estate and stocks.

Consequences: A prolonged period of economic stagnation known as the Lost Decade.

Asian Financial Crisis, 1997-1998

Reason: Panic selling, overvalued currencies and asset bubbles, high levels of foreign debt and borrowing.

Consequences: Significant currency devaluations, stock market crashes, and economic downturns, with several Asian markets losing a substantial portion of their value during this period.

The Dot-com Bubble Burst, 2000-2002

Reason: Speculative investing in internet-related companies and overvaluation of technology stocks.

Consequences: The collapse of many dot-com startups with substantial losses for investors.

The 2008 Financial Crisis

Reason: The collapse of the US housing market and the subprime mortgage crisis.

Consequences: A severe global financial meltdown when major stock indices, including the Dow Jones and S&P 500 experienced significant declines, with many financial institutions facing insolvency or near-collapse.

During these and other historical crashes, millions of investors lost substantial amounts of money, and the economic fallout was immense. Governments and central banks were forced to take extraordinary measures to stabilize financial markets, prevent widespread bank failures, and stimulate economic growth. These measures included massive bailouts of financial institutions, fiscal stimulus packages, and monetary policy actions such as lowering interest rates and implementing quantitative easing.

What happens to investment portfolios?

When the market goes down, stocks can experience losses in price. Investors who panic and sell their holdings during a crash may lock in these losses, making it difficult to recover their investments once the market stabilizes.

Worst-case scenarios for your investments during a stock market crash include the following:

  • Drastic portfolio value decline: a severe market downturn can lead to a significant reduction in the overall value of an investment portfolio.
  • Loss of retirement savings: retirement accounts heavily invested in the stock market can suffer substantial losses, jeopardizing long-term financial plans.
  • Margin calls and forced selling: investors who bought stocks using borrowed money on margin might face margin calls, forcing them to sell assets at unfavorable prices to meet their obligations.

What should you do if the stock market crashes?

Stay calm

While market crashes can be unnerving, it is crucial to remain calm and avoid making hasty and emotion-driven decisions.

Don’t sell investments

Selling investments during a market crash can turn paper losses into real ones. Instead, focus on a long-term investment strategy.

Buy during the market collapse

For those with available funds, a market crash can be an opportunity to buy high-quality assets at decreased prices. For those trading stocks, it is also an opportunity to speculate on price fluctuations.

Consult with experts

Seek advice from financial advisors or professionals who can provide insights and strategies.


Diversifying your investments across various asset classes can help mitigate risks during market downturns.


Stock market crashes can have far-reaching consequences on the economy and individual investors. While it can be unsettling, history has shown that markets eventually recover over time. By understanding the nature of crashes, staying calm, and making prudent decisions, investors can navigate these challenging periods and position themselves for long-term financial stability and success.


What was the biggest stock market crash of all time?

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 is widely considered the biggest stock market crash of all time. This crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression, one of the most severe economic downturns in history. The economic devastation and long-lasting impacts make it the most significant stock market crash.

Where should you invest your money to prepare for a crash?

The best approach is to maintain a well-diversified portfolio to help reduce the impact of a crash. You can spread your investments across various asset classes, such as bonds, precious metals, derivatives, and others.

Are stock market crashes more common during certain times of the year?

Stock market crashes can happen at any time and are generally unpredictable. Market behavior is influenced by a wide range of factors, including economic conditions, geopolitical events, investor sentiment, and overall market sentiment. As such, trying to predict the timing of a crash may be challenging.

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