BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- For most, 2009 was a year to forget.
Wall Street imploded. Retirement savings evaporated by as much as 50%. Unemployment cracked 10%. Crooks bilked investors out of billions with modern Ponzi schemes. "Too big to fail" meant massive bailouts for some institutions, but a death knell for others. Credit lines were tighter than the jeans you wore in college.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that the lessons learned during the past year can be used to set the stage for a prosperous, or at least safer, 2010.
Assess your risk tolerance
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That rule of thumb is a double-edged sword for equity investing. Making the most of a post-recession bull market means sticking your neck out and taking some chances, but the trade-off between risk and reward can be tricky. As one financial adviser recently confided, it's frustrating when clients want better-than-average returns while demanding the safety of bonds. You can't have it both ways. Anyone who so much as dabbles in the stock market needs to fully understand his risk tolerance. Assume the worst and, if you can live through it, plunge in with hopes for the best. Do you consider yourself conservative when it comes to financial matters or are you more of a risk taker? Does every dollar matter to you or are you able to shake off a 40% loss and chalk it up to "win some, lose some"? Did the crash of the past 18 months influence how you view your tolerance for losses?