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TheStreet Open House

Secrets of Investors Who Keep Cool in Chaos

By Laura Rowley, DailyFinance

NEW YORK ( DailyFinance) -- Call them the cooler heads. They intend to prevail.

Amid the screaming headlines and hysterical television coverage of the stock market over the last few days, we found investors who ignored the chaos. From Virginia to Iowa, Indiana to California, these investors -- who range from their 20s to their late 50s -- didn't panic and sell. In fact, while others were losing their heads, some of them were picking up bargains. What's the key to their cool?

A Longer-Term View

It starts with experience. Chris Goeb, 51, a food service executive in Iowa, has been investing for 30 years. His first hard lesson came during the market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, when the Standard & Poor's 500 lost 20% of its value in a single day. "I was so stupid," he recalls. "I panicked and, after the market dropped, I moved everything into cash. It was less than $10,000, but I learned my lesson and now I never flinch at these things anymore."

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For Houston banker David Kerr, 57, it was the dot-com meltdown. "One of the counselors at the bank I was working for at the time put me into a high-tech mutual fund," he says. "When that thing crashed, I lost 80%. It wasn't much money, so it didn't hurt too bad. But I learned be careful of the herd." Kerr also ignores the news coverage: "Listening to the chatter is the wrong thing to do. It can take you off your focus."

Even Andrew Jandt, 28, took advantage of vicarious experience during a more recent meltdown. "In 2008, most of the older people I worked with had all seen the market crash in the past, and they didn't seem to worry about it, unless they were close to retirement," says Jandt, who works in the aerospace industry in southern California. "I stayed in the market in 2008 and made personal sacrifices to up my contributions."

Jandt moved into a small apartment a block away from his office so he could walk to work, and talked his employer into letting him park his car -- which he's had since college -- in the company garage for free. He and his girlfriend have been cooking more often to save up cash to invest. "I'm not trying to beat the mega computers and financial engineers -- that can break you," he says. "Like Warren Buffett, I try to buy at the right price at the right time." He put several buy orders in on Monday.

Maintaining a Strategy

For other investors, calm is a consistent part of their long-term strategy. "I look to stay fully invested -- I did through the last crisis and intend to do that this time," says Gregory Pemberton, 58, a partner in an Indiana law firm. "The only move I made was at the suggestion of my broker late last week; we took some profits on three or four individual holdings we've had for a while."

Some of those stocks hit 52-week highs over the summer, and his broker suggested he pocket the gains before the shares slid further, he says. "I'm a good conservative Midwesterner, and for the most part, we just spend a lot less than we make," says Pemberton, whose latest read is "Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should Too."

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