Don't Panic! Some Simple Investing Tips for the Nervous Investor

US Stocks: Investing Tips After the Standard & Poor's Downgrade

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Schwartz said if you are still contributing to your 401(k), then don't change your plan.

"What determines how well you do on your 401(k) is where you finish as opposed to the journey," Schwartz said. "If you are still planning on contributing for years, this time may help rather than hurt you because you are literally buying stocks when they are cheaper and your question is where they end up when you retire."

Scott Cole, a financial planner in Birmingham, Ala., said it's important to remember that even if you are ready to retire, you will need that money to last for perhaps decades.

"If you are retiring, even then I try to tell investors you don't need all your retirement assets right away. You need them to last you 25 or 30 years. If you reach retirement age and you take everything out of the market, that's not wise." Cole said to look at your family history and your life expectancy, and assess how long you will need your assets to last. "If you have three to five years of living expenses, and you fund that every year ... you will have time to recuperate any losses."

Still nervous? That's normal, but it may be time to gain some perspective.

"As bad as this is, this is nothing like what we faced in 2008 and the beginning of 2009. This has more to do with the fact that the economy might slip back into a recession. It's not anything like we faced just a couple of years ago," Cole said. "Uncertainty seems to run the day right now, and one thing we know, markets don't like uncertainty."

He said that "emotional based investing" is a "good way to lose your shirt," and it's important not to take losses personally or have an emotional attachment to losses or gains.

If the market is down, it's not "because the market is picking on you." Instead, it's because "you are buying into rallies."

"The reason you make money is because you are acquiring risk and there is a premium for the risk you are taking," Cole said. "You expect to be compensated for volatility. Now that compensation doesn't happen right away. The longer you hold on to an investment the more you should expect to be compensated for holding that risk. Things have to come down at times. It allows you to buy in and hold on to it."

Cole added: "I don't know when the bottom will be, but I do know it's a better time to buy than two weeks ago."

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