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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For the past week I've noticed a trend from bloggers, tweeters and mainstream lame-os talking about investors taking risk off. Most of it centers on the idea that people are shouting from their windows, Network-style, saying they can't stand it anymore.

What is the message? Does it suggest that people are stupid for not engaging the market? Or are we supposed to trade this information along the lines of a smart-dumb money play?


Yes, it does suggest that individual investors just got the memo that risk has been through the roof since August. For that I will be in the camp that they are a bit late to the game. However, the crowd is smarter than we think. While my stats told me about the higher risk and volatility of the market months ago, average Americans are still adapting to the reality on the ground. Their instincts are not all bad, though their timing can hinder performance.

We need to stop saying people are taking off risk -- this is an insult. If risk just doubled, and you took some risk off the table, what did you just do? You kept risk constant in some basic way. People out there, regardless of how they may describe it, are simply expressing their desire to keep some semblance of long-term risk.

The only way to keep risk constant during a market crisis is to actively reduce market exposure. Folks, we have had the VIX in the 30s for months. Only in the past few weeks has the volatility sunk back into a still-higher-than-normal 20s.

Of course, this might suggest that, as the crowd wants relief, traders will relieve them of profits going forward. If you didn't raise some risk-free assets like cash a few months ago, it seems a little late to start now.

I could be wrong, and my portfolios have 10% to 25% in cash across the board. Cash sucks, and I look forward to a market that has less volatility so I can get my stock on. What advisers and investors should avoid now is jumping to conclusions that were evident back in September.

I say, change the headlines. "Individual investors adjust risk after months of high volatility." This is more accurate. Plus, you can use this same headline to suggest the crowd is slow, is spot on, as a trend indicator, a countertrend indicator, or an opportunity for stockbrokers to sell bonds into the fear. We can all get along.

Lee Munson, CFA, CFP, is the founder and chief investment officer of Portfolio LLC, an asset-management firm based in Albuquerque, N.M. His first book, �Rigged Money: Beating Wall Street at its Own Game� (John Wiley & Sons), was published in December. Munson is a frequent guest on CNBC�s "The Kudlow Report." His contributions have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal," "Forbes," "Smart Money," "Kiplinger�s Personal Finance," "CFA Magazine," "" and "TheStreet."