Retirement accounts lose $2 trillion

October 7, 2008 2:34:57 PM PDT
Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion in the past 15 months, Congress' top budget analyst estimated Tuesday. There are several different schools of thought on what you should do with your retirement accounts. Some advisors say stay the course, while others say get out of the market now. Everyone agrees, in the short term, volatility in the market is going to continue.

While the market took yet another nose dive Tuesday, in the past 15 months, American companies have lost trillions in retirement accounts. This hyper-volatility of the market is making many investors confused. Some are bailing while others staying.

"Yesterday, I actually called and stopped my contributions to my 401K. I felt they were just evaporating," said Jennifer Plasch, investor.

"I was lucky enough to get out of the market and get rid of some of my investments. Unfortunately, I put it in realty, which has tanked. But I'm still getting a rental income from some of those investments," said Kevin Bishop, investor.

"I'm concerned I should have done something and I haven't. At this point it's too late, so I'm just trusting everything will work out," said Kathy Cline, investor.

And many financial experts are confident it will all work out like down market have in the past. Stace Hilbrandt, with 401 K Advisors, has been taking several panicky calls from clients. Hildbrant subscribes to the traditional school of thought that you should stay in the market for the long haul.

"The worst thing you can do is sell out of equities in a depressed market because you do not put yourself in a position of the market when it goes back up. That's the biggest mistake you can make," said Hilbrandt.

But others say it's been decades since the American economy has experienced this kind of volatility, so cashing out may be the best choice for you, even though it may not help the economy out as a whole.

"As individuals, we have to decide what's right for us. At the end of the day, we have to protect ourselves and buy our cars and pay for education," said Deborah Lucas, Northwestern Univ. Kellogg School of Management.

Lucas says, bottom line, individuals must decide what is right for their own families rather than taking advice from the financial experts. Many financial experts insist that a diversified portfolio is the best in the long run.


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