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Stocks & Bonds

Stay Faithful to Stocks

As I'm sure you've heard, Mary Beth, a big rap against individual investors is that they hurt themselves by letting their emotions get in the way. You know the drill: When stocks are going through the roof, individuals can't get enough of them. When stocks tank, investors won't touch 'em with the proverbial 10-foot pole. The end result, of course, is that individuals often buy high and sell low.

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From a financial-planning perspective, I can't disagree with you. But when you tell me that some advisers are shifting their older clients' money from stocks to less-risky stuff, I can't help but wonder whether the advisers are any less emotional than the people they're counseling.

We've just gone through the worst bear market since the Great Depression, and now advisers are telling their clients to cut back on their stock allocation? Where were these brilliant advisers when the Dow Jones industrial average was above 14,000? That would have been the time to tell their clients -- young, elderly and middle-aged alike -- to start cutting back on stocks. And, by the way, whatever happened to the time-tested advice to periodically rebalance your portfolio—a move that, in the aftermath of the bear market, requires that we buy stocks?

Look, I can't promise that the stock market won't perform as poorly over the next ten years as it has during the past ten. But I think the odds are good that stocks will deliver reasonable, if not scintillating, returns over the coming decade. As Jeremy Siegel, a Kiplinger's columnist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, has pointed out, periods of poor stock-market performance usually presage outsize gains. Besides, the safe alternatives, such as money-market funds and Treasury bonds, are paying next to nothing.

My advice to investors: Hang tough.

Mary Beth Franklin says preserve your income.