As we address these questions, there are truisms we must understand with a clear mind before giving up. To be clear, giving up is the wrong thing to do.

The stock market has an "up" year 72% of the time, which means it has a "down" year the rest of the time. As different as this time might feel, most of this has happened before: 50% decline, bank failures, global contagion, depression, an apparent lack of a solution, 12-year round trip to nowhere for stock prices. All this has happened before, albeit with different details.

For many people, the problem isn't owning stocks, but, more likely, owning too many stocks, which becomes a question of proper asset allocation. Perhaps in the future we will see people change their asset allocation, but it is too late -- or perhaps too early -- to make asset-allocation changes. Does anyone think the best path to portfolio recovery is to sell stocks after a 50% decline? That's an overwhelmingly bad strategy with little chance of success.

This article isn't meant to be a pep talk. It might be a while before broad market averages start to show signs of health (a 25% rally in three weeks is not healthy), but an uncomfortable ride in the stock market for a while longer doesn't mean the market is permanently broken. This is prime time for people to succumb to emotion and sell low. If you do one thing, avoid that mistake.

Roger Nusbaum is a portfolio manager with Your Source Financial of Phoenix, and the author of Random Roger's Big Picture Blog. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Nusbaum appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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