Don't let this recession keep you down. Grab the opportunity to build a stronger portfolio, cut the fat from your budget, and give yourself a head-to-toe fiscal makeover.
..and bring balance to your stocks and bonds.
If you're like most 401(k) investors, you didn't touch your investments last year, in the darkest hours of the bear market. That was hardly a sign of buy-and-hold discipline. The majority of 401(k) participants haven't done anything with their accounts in years.
Say you entered last year with a 60%-stock/40%-bond mix. If you didn't rebalance, that's now a fifty-fifty split. Since 1926, the annual return for a 60-40 mix has been 8.5%, vs. 8.1% for the even split. Over 10 years that can mean an extra $41,000 in a portfolio worth $500,000 today.
On the plus side, the bear market has already "rebalanced" the portfolios of those who took on too much risk. In 2007 a third of workers in their fifties - for whom a 60/40 portfolio is typically a sensible proposition - held more than 80% of their 401(k)s in stocks; that's down now.
But rebalancing isn't a one-time event. Check your portfolio at least once a year, and reset it to your long-term targets if your allocation shifts by more than five percentage points. Don't have that kind of discipline? See if your 401(k) offers an auto-rebalancing option (half of large-company plans do). Unsure what the right mix is for you? Go to cnnmoney.com/allocator.
NEXT: Go on a Treasury diet...