Getting Perspective on the Stock Market

How to stay positive on an awful news day.

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Yesterday was a terrible day for anyone with money in the stock market. The Dow dropped 5.6 percent, the biggest fall since December 2008. So we decided to revisit the height of that recent financial crisis for a little perspective. Alpha Consumer posted these tips for “staying up when stocks go down” in October 2008:

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  • Hole up. Cook, rent movies, or schedule time on your couch and celebrate the basics that you can still count on, whether it's a favorite meal or favorite person. There's something comforting about knowing that even when times are tight—and they might get extremely tight—you can still enjoy yourself. 
  • Make sure your money is as safe as possible. Now is not the time to get out of the stock market. But if you have savings in a bank account or money market fund, make sure you understand what your financial institution is doing to protect your cash, whether it's through government insurance or diversification. Many institutions, aware of their customers' concerns, have been posting updates on their websites. 
  • Find a new (free) hobby. Walking, Japanese tea ceremonies, knitting...the possibilities are practically endless. Many technical skills, such as wood burning or building a tree house, can be learned online, at no charge. 
  • Focus on relationships. Spend the afternoon with a friend who's going through a rough time, with your mom, or with your spouse. A long walk followed by coffee won't put you back more than $10.
  • Watch the evening news, but skip all-day cable. Throughout the day, the financial news channels jump to the market's every move. In contrast, few things are more soothing than Brian Williams's calm voice at the end of the day. Even when the news is bad, he just wrinkles his brow a bit and carries on—as we all should.
  • Readers soon chimed in with their own ideas: “Chocolate. Tons of chocolate,” one suggested. Another recommended thinking, praying, and exercising. A reader calling herself a single mom in Colorado wrote, “These things work for me: 1. Be in nature as much as possible; nature transcends temporary problems. 2. Read biographies about people who survived truly tough times, like Nazi prison camps…. 3. Remember the Dark Ages and be glad [you] weren’t born then.”

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    After a horribly tragic news day like yesterday, we don’t even have to go back to the Dark Ages to gain perspective. The famine in Somalia and the Navy Seals’ deaths in Afghanistan remind us that sometimes, a freefalling stock market is the least of our concerns.

    Twitter: @alphaconsumer