For a while, it was fun when my 401(k) statement arrived in the mail. Couldn't wait to open it, almost felt like a miser sitting on top of a bunch of gold bricks.
Recently, however, my 401(k) has been shooting bricks. That is a basketball term for not shooting very straight. Kind of like Patrick Ewing from the free-throw line.
So now, when my statement arrives, it sits there, unopened, along with the multiple credit card offers and the generally useless coupons from Val-Pak.
When I get around to opening the statement, I feel like Jamie Lee Curtis in
: You never know what horror is waiting around the next corner.
And in my case, it was this: In the past nine months, my balance in one account went from roughly $25,000 to $18,000. Good job, guys! I'm sure I'll regain that roughly 25% in warp speed.
To be honest, Ben Stein made me look. Last week, on
wrote about getting clobbered in a
fund. In a year and a half, it went from $44,000 to $8,000. Ouch. Ben, if you want any investment tips, feel free to give me a holler.
This week, in
Debunking the Buy-and-Hold Ball and Chain, Stein piqued my interest again. In this unsteady market climate, many investors who bought and held got creamed. Stein said he would have been wiped out if he had.
Stein's point is that no market strategy works all of the time. The key to success is being able to adapt to market conditions.
Mountains to Mole Hills
Ian McDonald, meanwhile, had many helpful hints for those of us singing the 401(k) blues. In
Don't Be Afraid to Fix Up Your 401(k), the senior writer for
suggested four steps to take to unscramble your nest egg.
He included a blueprint for what a diversified U.S.-stock fund portfolio would look like, using the Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Market Index as a yardstick.
Accentuate the Positive
Shrink Rap: What You Aren't Conscious of Can Hurt You, psychologist Steven Hendlin entertained a query from a reader who wondered why some traders purposely engage unconsciously in irrational -- and unprofitable -- behavior.
According to Hendlin, when it comes to trading, even seemingly na¿ve or ignorant behaviors may be traced to unconscious programs aimed toward personal failure.
For clues to when something may be destructive, Hendlin suggests traders should pay attention to self-talk that sounds negative, blaming, punishing and repetitive, such as:
"I'm not smart enough to process all this data fast enough to enter a position."
"I'm afraid of taking on a position this large."
"My sell decisions are always too soon; my timing is terrible."
"The market makers are out to get me; I can't win."
To combat such negativity, Hendlin suggested investors should try to neutralize those thoughts with positive statements. Otherwise, he said, negative thoughts are likely to be reinforced by exactly the behaviors that you are struggling against.
There's No Business Like E-Business
Even if many Internet companies are not, the Internet itself is here to stay. And in
Companies Need to Make E-Business Their Business, Rakesh Sood wrote about firms that are eschewing tradition and integrating the Web in interesting and productive ways.
is one of the companies Sood cited. While its traditional lines were sold almost entirely through retail stores, Herman Miller launched a series of lower-priced products and sold them exclusively online. Not only did that tactic boost sales, but the company underwent a fundamental rethinking when it comes to customer service.
As a result of integrating the Internet into its business model, Herman Miller sold more, and it sold more efficiently, reducing its normal lead time of five to six weeks to same-day manufacturing and delivering via UPS in fewer than five days.
He Came Out Swinging
By the looks of the email that poured in, professional trader Alan Farley made an impression with his initial column,
Wake Up and Smell the Swing Trade.
Farley, whose articles will appear on Tuesdays and Thursdays, introduced readers to some of the tricks swing traders employ to prosper in an erratic market.
as an example, Farley said investors must focus ruthlessly on risk management to survive as swing traders, and let profits take care of themselves.