$2.8 trillion lost in market turmoil so far

August 11, 2011: 5:37 AM ET
Investors in the stock market saw $2.8 trillion in paper value disappear in recent weeks.

Investors in the stock market saw $2.8 trillion in paper value disappear in recent weeks.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- If stock market gyrations make you queasy, you may not want to read on.

The Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index has lost $2.8 trillion in value since the stock market slide began on July 22. Some $600 billion of that went up in smoke on Wednesday, when the index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average both dropped about 520 points.

Not surprisingly, the stock market's wild swings in recent weeks have sent investors and retirees scurrying to their financial advisors for some hand holding. The main message they're hearing: Stay put.

"Try to take a step back from the day-to-day," said Chris Philips, senior investment analyst with Vanguard. "Reacting to these ups and downs and sideways swings can actually do more harm than good for most investors."

Call volume and web activity is up at the investment giant, but few people are making changes to their retirement portfolios. And in Vanguard's brokerage division, clients have been buying more stocks than they've been selling in August, said Philips.

For some, the steep market drop is a chance to pick up stocks on the cheap. This is especially true if you have time to ride out the volatility.

"For people who are young, it's a buying opportunity," said Christine Benz, director of personal finance for Morningstar.

Those who need to cash out their portfolios within the next few years shouldn't be that heavily invested in stocks anyway, Benz said. But if they are, they are likely getting slammed by the market plunges.

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Those nearing or in retirement, as well as parents who need to pay college tuition soon, should have a mix of cash, bonds and equities. That asset allocation will allow them to better ride out the storm, Benz said.

Unfortunately, that investment advice isn't always heeded. Vanguard found that investors over the age of 65 had an average of 49% of their retirement funds in equities in 2010, meaning some had allocated a much larger percentage of their portfolio to stocks than that.

So now would be a good time to check to make sure your investments are properly allocated to meet your goals and your risk tolerance. And if you aren't sleeping at night, you may want to call your advisor.

"It's hard to blame investors for feeling squeamish right now," Benz said.

Has all of the market turmoil prompted you to move all of your retirement investments into cash? If so, we'd like to hear from you. If you'd like to share your story with CNNMoney, email blake.ellis@cnnmoney.com.  To top of page

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