Terry’s Columns No closing your eyes during this bumpy market ride

No closing your eyes during this bumpy market ride

By Terry Savage on September 23, 2008

All of the financial markets are on a roller coaster. The strategy for roller coasters is to fasten your seat belt, close your eyes, and scream. That won’t work for the stock market.

The markets don’t know how to price securities for more than an instant because the facts and possibilities change every moment. The financial system is in upheaval — with the remaining large investment banks giving up their “license to make money through leverage” by agreeing to submit to banking regulation, in exchange for access to the Treasury.

Congress promises to make changes in the Treasury proposal — everything from “capping” salaries of CEOs of companies protected by the government to rewriting mortgages of individual homeowners. Foreign central banks are weighing in with their demands. And the global trading markets are worried that the Fed will create trillions of new dollars, leading to inflation.

No one knows the outcome, and the markets are reflecting this uncertainty. As a result, here’s what happened on Monday:

The Dow Jones industrials fell 372 points, as uncertainty about financial stocks spreads to uncertainty about the economy, credit card debt, holiday shopping and capital investment.

The value of the dollar fell sharply, reflecting inflationary fears.

Gold rose to over $907 an ounce, seen as a safe haven in times of financial upheaval.

Oil prices soared — partly because of near-term futures contracts expiring, and partly because oil and other commodities are seen as relatively “safer” than dollars.

If you’re confused by this roller coaster of money headlines, the recommended financial strategy is to open your eyes and take a good look at your investment diversification — and your specific investments.

While the government has backed the FDIC with more money and extended guarantees to money market mutual funds, the one risk you do have is in the prices of your stocks and mutual funds. No one guarantees you against loss because of declining stock markets. That’s where you need to carefully consider your risk tolerance, time horizon and investment choices.

I continue to believe that over the long run — and that may be 10 to 15 years — you’ll be rewarded for continuing to invest in your stock market mutual funds. And that includes the need for some stock market exposure even during your retirement years.

But in the short run, the economic upheavals coming from the current situation might trigger a growth decline and lower stock prices. If you think that possibility will impact your current or near-term lifestyle, then you should make careful changes in your asset allocation.

In other words, if you’re retired and withdrawing money, you don’t want to be forced to sell stocks or funds at lower prices. You need a “cash cushion.” But if you plan to live in a successful America and build your family’s future through economic growth, you’ll want to keep investing in that future though the stock market And that’s the Savage Truth.



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