NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2007, many individual investors have lost faith in the stock market and in Wall Street. And who can blame them. The fraud, malfeasance, and plain boorish behavior on the part of Wall Street institutions aside, there's high unemployment and underemployment, higher gas prices, and the endless patter of how bad our economy is doing. Worse, none of this seems to square with rising corporate earnings and a rising stock market. Many individual investors' daily experience in a slow-growth economy tells them in their gut something is off. Sadly, that gut feeling has caused many investors to stay on the sidelines and miss a significant market rally, not just over the past year, but over the past three and a half years since the market bottomed in March 2009. As an investment adviser and portfolio manager I understand these trepidations. But I have also learned from experience that second-guessing the market and letting your emotions rule your investment strategy almost never works out. So if you are one of the disenfranchised investors sitting on the sidelines, here are some step to take to get back in the ball game: 1. Many investment advisory firms, including ours, offer free portfolio reviews. Take advantage of them, there should be no cost and no obligation to you. 2. The Street.com offers free investment tools, as well as some very low-cost tools. Many tools that are free now were proprietary just a few years ago, and individual investors couldn't gain access to them very easily. Now they can. 3. Don't get rushed or pressured into any decisions. Investing is a long-term proposition. And guess what? There are no opportunities here today that will be gone tomorrow. 4. Stick with investing in industries and businesses you know and are comfortable with. This is the Warren Buffett way. Buffett, who knows nothing about technology, missed several tech booms in the market over the last 30 years. Still, he seems to be doing fine.
5. Think of investing in terms of themes or "motifs." Visit www.motifinvesting.com for some ideas. I'm not affiliated Motif Investing and have no business dealings with them. Nonetheless I do like their approach, especially for disenfranchised investors looking for a new way to get back into the market. Remember, when planning your financial future, one of the risks you face is not taking enough risk. Sitting on cash feels good now, but it offers your money absolutely no opportunity to grow and only loses purchasing power or becomes susceptible to being used for whimsical big-ticket purchases like a boat, sports car or ski vacation. These purchases may feel as good or better than simply sitting on cash, but they will spoil your financial future. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage. Follow @Opursche