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I'm going try to post this message just one more time. If you wonder about why I say this, Pixy, ask your techies.

It's sounds as if you're trying to time the market so you can get out of stocks at a peak, and then buy back into them when they hit a low.

Hi Pixy,

Thanks for your thoughtful answer. The first part of your above sentence is right on. I'd surely like to get out of stocks at a peak. I don't know when I'd want to buy back, though. I don't think it would be when they hit a low, unless of course they were companies in which I had a whole lot of confidence (in which case they probably wouldn't be a whole lot lower). I'd want to buy back very good stocks when they are "breaking into new highs" -- I think that's the phrase of W.J. O'Neil of IBD. In other words, when they start to jump in value, on high volume. Also, I want to do it when I'm ready to, not because I feel I have to.

Or, better yet, I'd like to know which companies are going to be strong right through even the worst bear market and stick with them (but we all know that's probably not possible...don't we?).

Do not invest money you know you will need for living expenses in the next three to five years in the stock market.

I'm absolutely sure that is very good advice. It's now moot, though, in my case. After my IRA was decimated by a "full-service" brokerage, I chose to attempt a "rescue" and handle it myself online with Waterhouse. My friendly broker had reduced my original $85,000 over 7% in losses and fees. It would have been more but when I knew I was moving to Waterhouse, I insisted they sell the only two funds I was ahead in (they were based on the DOW, but were proprietary and nontransferrable). This made an increase of $2,000.

I am in the unenviable position of requiring more money than I have income, just for day-to-day living and paying normal bills. In my analysis of my situation, I left out of my budget new clothes, vacations of any sort, normal and necessary replacements and repairs (except for the car--a 1990 Dodge by the way--I allowed a little for repairs, but certainly not replacement), entertaining of any kind, gift-giving (other than some contributions)....I could go on, but I'm sure you all get my point. Still there was just no way I could live on my income after a small amount of liquid savings ran out.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, why didn't she get a job? I didn't get a job because, although physically in excellent condition, I am bipolar and emotionally unable to work -- even with medication. Medication alone, by the way (most of it for treatment of my manic-depressive illness) will cost me over $3,000 this year -- obviously something I don't dare cut back on. Besides which, I'm 63 and jobs aren't easy to find. I'm on Social Security Disability and have a small pension. My situation came upon me suddenly in August of 1998 when my husband died unexpectedly.

Just an aside here: If you are married and retired or about to retire or maybe even if you are very young and just got married, please make yourself face the possibility of you or your partner dying, and plan for it. Do everything you possibly can to assure the one who remains, to muddle on alone as best he or she can, will have adequate income. Don't leave this person to face the double hell of grief and worry. I think of all the advice I might be able to give anyone, at this point anyway (other than to love each other with all your hearts and live each day together as though it is your last), this is the best I can think of.

Well, I did digress, didn't I? Back to the question at hand. After a lot of normally good advice such as you just gave, I decided that rather than sell my home or take out a reverse mortgage on it, I would do my best to increase my IRA. I've made a few mistakes, but have been pretty fortunate so far. It was a bit over $79,000 and is now over $87,500. I started "wheeling and dealing" a bit in mid-August. This is still only about $2,000 more than when I virtually gave it to the unnamed firm in January of this year. That's an increase of only 2.3%. When I stupidly rolled it out of my 401(k), it was making 6.3% in the safest possible thing. I have a ways to go. On the other hand, from 79K to 87.5K is $8,500 which is an increase of 10.75%, and you know something? I am allowing myself to feel kind of pleased with this (even while I worry about all or most of the gains disappearing overnight).

After a sale yesterday (Friday), $11,000 of the total is in cash, most of which is going to go into the best thing I can find between now and then. I now hold JDS Uniphase (JDSU), Xylinx (XLNX), Infosystems (INFY), Veritas (VRTS), America Online (AOL), Microsoft (MSFT), Siebel (SEBL), Cognizant (CTSH), Vanguard Index Growth (VIGRX), and one of the original stocks which is BankAmerica Cap I 'TOPRS' (BAC-Z) and pays 7.75% (but not really quite that much, more like 7.4%) and is down 13.55% from when "we" bought it in January.

Although this has been a very exciting, absorbing, and (so far) rewarding experience; it's also been extremely difficult, stressful, and tiring. I'm not day-trading, but it comes a whole heck of a lot closer to it than I care for -- and I really do enjoy the stock market and learning about it...and buying and's actually fun. I need a vacation from it, though, and I cannot leave it for one day right now. At least not if I want to keep it under control. I realize it can all disappear (or most of it, probably). However, I chose this road to travel, and I'm not sorry. I haven't chosen it out of greed; just out of a need to make ends meet without giving up more than I was willing to give up (a home for one thing). I'd also like a few days of vacation now and then and a newer car when it becomes necessary, just a few modestly priced things which most of you take for granted (which I took for granted before my husband died).

So, Pixy, and anyone else who might be reading this, these are my reasons for being in the stock market when apparently I should have sense enough not to do such a dumb thing. These are also my reasons for hoping some of you might have a thought or two on what to watch for, whether you think this big Y2K coming up is going to send the market into a tumble. If Alan Greenspan can do it just by twitching his nose or holding his mouth a certain way, what might just the thoughts of the "New Millennium," as they so cutely call it, do to the market?

You say: There is never a right time to be in the market, only a wrong time to be out of it.

I get the point. Now how about saying something practical to someone operating in a world that is not the best world, who's made perhaps not the wisest decision, but who insists on keeping on keeping on, one foot in front of the other, until she grows her money enough to kick back and ride out a market downturn (or until she loses her shirt and has to sell her house)? If no one has a single idea of what to watch for, then does anyone have any ideas on what is best to duck into really quick with all or part of their money intact when/if a bear market develops? Would 100% bonds be the thing? Which ones? How to find the best?

I couldn't help noticing (and God help me, I'm sorry Pixy, but I can't help mentioning it) you put $300,000 of your own money into your three retirement portfolios on TMF. Honestly, I think it's wonderful you have that much money to smirch around with; I certainly don't covet it. I do wish I had that much and you had three or four times more, though. On the other hand, if you've retired several times already (as I think you said you did), you should have more money than the average bear (that's a poor word to use right now), shouldn't you? Besides which, your being a buyer and holder from way back helps too, I'm sure. Wish I'd run into Motleys about 30 years ago. I hope you don't mind my "twitting" you a bit, Pix [or calling you "Pix"]. It's not meant to hurt, maybe just to try to end this on a bit of humor. Okay, would you believe it's partly humor and partly just a wee bit wanting to get some anger out? Not at you specifically, just at everything in general. I think that's probably the truth of it.

So I shall end my missive now. It's going on for 1:00 in the AM here; I'd better get online and transfer this to the message board. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I haven't offended you (or anyone else for that matter) and also that I'll get some advice, maybe, from someone on how to track bear, so to speak. Or, if no one has any advice or ideas, how about some moral support? You know something? I sure wish last spring when I was all over the place asking for advice on how to do what I've been doing, someone had been able to say to me: "If you just have to do this incredibly dumb thing, here's my best advice...." Gee, it might have saved me some money -- but more than that, it would have felt good.

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