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Financial Advisers Urge Investors to Chillax

Turbulent markets have spooked investors, leaving them with pressing questions about their financial future. Here are some of the most common, along with answers from two financial advisers who have received their share of calls from concerned clients.

Could I lose everything?

It's highly unlikely that the stock market will head all the way to zero. "Gross national product and the Dow Jones Industrial Average track each other," says Cliff Michaels, chief investment officer at Institutional Investment Advisors Corp., a New York-based independent financial planning and investment management firm. "Most of the companies on the Dow are multinational. If you consider global population and demographics, it's just a matter of time before they start to expand again."

In short, if your investment portfolio is well balanced with a mix of equities and fixed-income investments that is appropriate for your time horizon, the chances are slim that you'll lose everything. Of course, if you panic and sell everything at the bottom, you'll probably take a serious financial hit.

Should I stop contributing to my 401(k)?

No, even though your balance is probably dismal. Rather than focusing on that number, think about the bargain you're getting on the shares you're buying with current contributions. "You have the opportunity to invest at lower levels than we've seen for a very long time," says Michaels. "You can buy a lot more shares with your money now than you could just a few years ago."

Maintaining your 401(k) contributions also means you're also taking advantage of dollar-cost averaging. By investing a fixed amount at set intervals, "you're guaranteed to buy fewer shares when they're expensive and more when they're cheap," explains James Tissot, president of the New York chapter of the Financial Planning Association.
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