Stock market shock

Just as many of us were feeling the worst was over, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged again and again in the past week.

“Until the market sees credible evidence of improved economic conditions, patient, long-term investors will continue to stay on the sidelines and stocks will continue to be subject to the vicissitudes of short-term trading gyrations,” Kevin Caron, market strategist for the private client group at Stifel Nicolaus in Florham Park, N.J., told the Post’s Cezary Podkul.

If it does indeed take time for the markets to recover, what should you be doing with your investments?

Here’s a roundup of some postings that may help you during this turbulent time:

-- “These wild swings create tremendous opportunities to buy into your favorite companies at levels below their actual worth,” advises The Motley Fool. “Since we feel confident the market will recognize its error over time, holding onto those once-cheap shares as the market recognizes their true value can generate some healthy and relatively easy profits.”

-- Long-term investors should relax, writes Nate Silver in his New York Times blog. Silver says: “If your focus is on the long term, however — five years from now as an absolute minimum but preferably 10 or more years ahead — I can offer you at least a little comfort. Stock prices, especially in the United States, have had a reasonably strong tendency to revert to the mean. The short version of this is that, although your portfolio may have lost a lot of value over the past couple of weeks, you’re likely to get at least some of that money back (in fact, quite possibly most of it) because expectations for future returns have now improved.”

-- Should you take your money and run to cash? “Now is not the time to give in to emotions and make rash moves,” says Walter Updegrave on money.cnn.com. “It's the time to take a few deep breaths and dispassionately set a sensible course for the future.” As Updegrave points out, stocks have generated impressive long-term returns. He says: “If you look at the 56 rolling 30-year periods from 1926 through 2010 (1926-1955, 1927-1956, etc. through 1981-2010) the lowest annualized return stocks have delivered over a 30-year span is 8.5%, and the average 30-year annualized return for all those periods is 11.3%. For bonds, the numbers are 1.5% and 5.1%, respectively.” Of course past results aren’t a predictor of future returns, but it’s still an interesting figure.

“But,” Updegrave says, “I don't see any reason why, over the long term, one would expect stocks to underperform bonds or cash, especially considering the current low yields on bonds and cash equivalents.”

--Forbes.com has put together a series of stories on what you can do with your money now. Among its articles are “How to Escape from a Bear” and “After The Downgrade: 10 Steps To Protect Your Retirement.”Also read my column today. If you’re lost as to what to do, maybe now is the time to finally get a financial planner.

For those shopping for a mortgage, there may be some good news about the drops in the Dow, reports the Post’s Ylan Q. Mui. “The stock market sell-off over the past week has created a surprising — albeit likely short-term — silver lining for consumers: ultra-low interest rates,” Mui writes.

So here’s this week’s Color of Money Question: Are you worried about your investments and what have you done to assuage your fears? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Stock Market Shock” in the subject line.

Good as New

As the old saying goes, one’s man trash is another man’s treasure. So when should you buy something new? Or, as they say in the used car market, “previously owned?”

AOL’s Robyn Gearey advises consumers on when to buy secondhand and when to buy new.

-- When it comes to baby buys such as clothes, toys and high chairs, previously owned is okay.

-- Car seats and cribs should be new to adhere to current safety standards.

- Want some bling? Like cars, jewelry depreciates in value as soon as it leaves the store. Greary suggests purchasing used jewelry from Web sites such as www.IDoNowIDont.com.

-- If your kid or grandchild is trying out a new musical instrument, you might start them off with a used one.

Debt Defeater

Is your money no longer funny? And you can’t keep it to yourself?

If so, send in your story telling me how you got rid of your debt. Include the amount you got rid of, how long it took to be debt-free and a statement describing your newfound financial freedom to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

You will receive a free t-shirt if I read your story during my live video chat.

Let’s Talk

Join me today at 11:45 a.m. for my live video chat. Don’t go anywhere because at noon ET my online text chat begins.

It’s just you and me, so send your money questions in early or read the transcript later.

3D for Three Bucks

Was this weekend’s 3D movie worth the extra three bucks or was it a bust?

Last week, I added a new feature to the newsletter that allows readers to critique the latest 3D movies, rating it 3D glasses on (good) or off (bad).

The reviews are in.

“I took my two girls to see the ‘Smurfs’ movie. The only option available for us was the 3D show. For $30, I feel that I was taken to the cleaners,” states Mona Pion of Sunderland, Mass. “My ticket was nearly $12 and the tickets for the girls came to $19. Add to that a medium popcorn and a medium drink plus two boxes of candy for $21 and my total cost for the evening for three people was $50.  The movie was great and we laughed a lot. I really don’t think that the 3D feature was necessary or that it added any real extra features to the film. Plus, I wear glasses normally and having to place those 3D glasses over them is more bothersome that I would care to do.”

Jenny Lee of New Jersey said she ended up seeing the latest Harry Potter movie in 3D as that showing was the best time for her to go to the movies. “The movie gets a big thumbs up, but 3D gets a big thumbs down. The 3D was distracting, as the movie was actually shot in 2D. Since life is in 3D and movies try to be, it's better to save the extra money for another theater outing.”

Dori Grasson of Cockeysville, Md. agreed with Lee.  She wrote: “’Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two’ was a wonderful movie, but the 3D was an absolute waste. I adore the books and love the movies, but the 3D added nothing to the film.  It really seemed that the producers had no clue as to how to really use the technology.  We've seen a number of films that used it very effectively and I'm looking forward to a few films that will be coming out sometime within the next year, that I hope will use 3D well.  But, unfortunately, Harry Potter was not one of them.  I plan to see it several times more, but I'll save the extra money.”

“Another problem you didn't mention is how dim and dark the glasses make the feature,” says Amanda Marks of Los Angeles, Calif. “It's like watching a movie with sunglasses on.  Recently I saw Captain America in 3D and after 20 minutes of lifting the glasses to compare the brightness, I got so fed up, walked out and asked for my money back.  I went to see it again, in 2D, and had a terrific time.”

Send me your reviews to colorofmoney@washpost.com with your take on your latest 3D experience. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “3D for Three Bucks” in the subject line.

Responses to “Your Honey and Your Money”

Recent polls by Askmen.com and Cosmopolitan magazine asked men and women their thoughts on different topics from money to marriage.

Findings from the survey show:

--Forty-five percent of men have a plan for retirement and either are currently saving or will start saving for retirement soon. But only 21 percent of women have any plan.

--When it comes to the ultimate status symbol, 43 percent of women think that it is a beautiful home. Twenty-six percent of men said it’s having a successful partner. At 39 percent, men ranked family as their number one choice.

--Eight-five percent of men said that they would be okay with having a partner who makes more money than they do, and 73 percent of women say that they would be okay with having a partner who makes less than them.

After reading the survey, I wanted to know: Are the poll findings in line with the patterns you see in your own life?

Here are some comments.

 “While I can understand some parts of the survey, and perhaps being 42 years old and single changes my views, I'm more concerned with whether a man can make good monetary decisions and can support the lifestyle he is living,” states Barb Riley of Mukwonago, Wis. “If he makes more than me – great. If he makes less than me but lives accordingly - great! But I'm not looking for someone to bankroll me and my decisions and I don't expect to do that for someone else.  Living and enjoying the most comfortable life you can afford is what I expect out of my next relationship.”

 “My comment is about status symbols,” writes Patricia Doris of California. “The notion that men consider their family or partner as the ultimate status symbol certainly does not mean that they consider it the most valuable thing in their lives.  I would bet that if you asked the question differently, ‘What is the most valuable thing in your life?,’ women would put families as number one.  As for myself, and the women I know, we don’t consider our families as status symbols, for sure.  We are just happy to have a family—and we don’t care what people think about it.”

Upcoming Events

--I’ll be speaking at the Women’s and Girls Fund of the Mid-shore fundraising event on Sept.15 at 7 p.m. at the Avalon Theater in Easton, Md. This event raises money to provide grants to non-profit organizations that provide a number of services to women and girls in several counties in Maryland. For example, a grant the fund is giving to a Cambridge youth center helps pay for mentoring, tutoring, and after-school programs for mothers and children from the low-income neighborhood it serves.

For ticket information, call 410-770-8347 or pay online

--On Thursday, October 16th, I will be honored with the Bridge Builder Award at The Training Source Inc. 18th anniversary dinner and auction. This is a fundraising event for the Training Source, which is a great non-profit organization in Prince George's County that, among other services, provides training and employment placement assistance, leadership training for at-risk youth, and free professional clothing for job candidates.

The event will be held at Newtown White Mansion at 2708 Enterprise Rd. in Mitchellville, Md., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about the event, go to http://www.thetrainingsource.org.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

 You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested. 

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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