Of course, as you near retirement, you won't have years ahead of you to keep contributing. Watching the money melt away can be painful -- which is why we've talked about having some "chicken money" on the side, so you won't panic in market declines.

Didn't follow that advice? Now all you can do is ask yourself whether you'll feel worse if you don't sell and the market drops more, or if you do -- and the market rallies. When everyone decides to answer that question by selling, we'll be at the bottom.

Don't kick yourself for not selling earlier. And don't kick yourself later for missing the rebound. You're along for the entire ride. America's economy will grow again, and so will your stocks.

The lessons that cost the most, teach the most. If you didn't allocate some assets to safety so you can sleep at night, you've learned an expensive lesson. You'll get another chance to put it to good use, although that may be quite a few years from now.

And that's The Savage Truth!
Terry Savage is an expert on personal finance and also appears as a commentator on national television on issues related to investing and the financial markets. Savage's personal finance column in the Chicago Sun-Times is nationally syndicated. She was the first woman trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and is a registered investment adviser for stocks and futures. Savage currently serves as a director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Corp.

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