Nervous About the Markets? Calm Down

For some reason an unusual number of people were tracking me down here at FOX; clearly nervous about the markets.

"What should I do, Neil?"

"I’ve been saving for my wedding, Neil, and I’m scared... should I get out?"

Or this: "Neil, I want to retire in 20 years and I’ve got all my marbles in the market. What should I do?"

Different questions, from different folks, different ages.

Same message: calm down and think.

Because when all is said and done, it comes down to this: How soon do you need or want your money?

The longer your time horizon, the more risks you can absorb.

The shorter your time horizon, the fewer.

It's that simple. It's that hard.

Lots of folks play the market like it's easy money. It isn't.

It's money — but it's money gained over years, not days, or weeks, or months.

It's not a roulette table; think of it as your kitchen table on which you plan your future, your goals, your life.

If those goals are many years off, history says the markets on your side.

If those goals are closer, maybe the markets aren't on your side.

If you're getting married next year and you're rolling the big celebration dice on stocks, take stock, and say "no” to stocks.

Think something safer: T-bills, CDs — something liquid, something sure, something short.

But if your time horizon is longer — if you don't need that money for at least another five years, and ideally another 10 — do think stocks, do think history.

Do think this: For every market downturn there has been an upturn. Not in days, but certainly over years.

A year after the great 1987 stock market crash we were up. Ditto hits in 1989 and 1996 and 1997. Even after 9/11, we came back.

It wasn't fast or easy or smooth. But it was — it is.

The dirty little secret about the markets is that no one can time them, but the best know that with time, they can win with them.

It's sort of like buying homes: If you treat where you live like a chip on the table, you'll soon be a chump hiding under a table.

Smart investors know that. The other dirty secret is that they simply refuse to tell you that.

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