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Ordinary investors may be missing out on Dow's run-up

Applause breaks out at the New York Stock Exchange at the closing bell on Feb. 21, 2012 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average broke through the 13,000 barrier early Tuesday, the first time since May 2008 and closed just under that mark.

Adriene Hill: Here in the U.S., the Dow closed at 13,005 -- its highest finish since 2008. It's a milestone you might guess would make investors happy, but not everyone has made big money.

Jill Schlesinger is editor-at-large for CBS MoneyWatch. Good morning Jill.

Jill Schlessinger: Good morning.

Hill: So how much have regular investors benefitted from this market run-up?

Schlessinger: I think a lot of ordinary investors haven't actually participated to the full extent. If we look at the last five years, we see that investors pulled almost $500 billion from the U.S. stock market. So that means when people were freaking out at the bottom, they were pulling money out of the stock market and they probably didn't actually participate in a big part of this recovery.

Hill: So they haven't gotten the benefits that maybe investors that were less skittish did?

Schlessinger: Absolutely. And you might even say this, that there's sort of an old saying on Wall Street that when you try to time the market, you don't have make one great decision -- you've got to make two great decisions: One, getting out at the right time; and two, when to get back in at the right time.

Hill: And so how do regular investors avoid making the same mistake in the future?

Schlessinger: I still think that the tried-and-true diversified portfolio really does protect you. And it's not so much about your performance on the way up, but it is about not getting spooked on the way down. If the market was down 50 percent, and your portfolio was only down 20 percent -- now 20 percent's a big number -- but it's not quite as scary as that 50. And I think more people are willing to stay with that portfolio if there isn't as much risk. I think the big lesson that we've seen is a diversified portfolio actually served people well on the bottom, and it serves them well on the way back up.

Hill: Jill Schlessinger from CBS MoneyWatch. Thanks.

Schlessinger: Great to be with you.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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