Should I stick with mutual funds?

Question: In 2006 I decided that I would move my (significant) individual mutual fund holdings to a managed account with my investment firm (a major mutual fund company). I did this because I have been busy in the military and have not had time to manage my mutuals and keep track of recent goings on. I am young, so they determined I should take risk. I agreed. Now that whole amount is down 35% from when I put it in. I am 38 years old. What should I do? Chris, Ft. Worth (deployed to Baghdad), TX

Answer: It hurts when our savings decline by that much. You do have a lot of company, however. And your portfolio is probably reasonably well diversified with a tilt toward equities (because of your age). The reason I say that is you would be down a lot more without some bonds holding down your paper losses. (Conservative bond mutual funds with a big dose of government securities did well last year.)

Normally, I am a skeptic about managed funds, but in your case it was a smart move considering all the demands on your time in the military. I would ask myself the same question everyone should address during this market meltdown. Is my portfolio too risky for me? Here's a safe forecast: There will be other bear markets -- probably several -- during your lifetime. Are you okay with that? You're still very young, and you have a long time for the money to compound. That argues for leaving it alone. But if you don't like the losses, I would direct the managed account to create a more conservative portfolio over time. There's no rush, but you'll want to reduce your exposure to equities.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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