Most Retirement Savers Aren't Exiting the Stock Market

But it is certainly cathartic to posture about exiting equities.

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It's easy to issue the empty threat that you're going to pull your retirement stash out of the stock market. But most nest eggs aren't mattressbound. An admittedly preplunge Gallup poll released today found that, among the 61 percent of Americans who have money in stocks, 70 percent have not seriously considered withdrawing from the market. Some 20 percent have seriously considered moving to safer investments, but only 8 percent have actually taken money out.

TIAA-CREF, which provides financial services to people in the academic, medical, and cultural fields, says call volume from clients is up 50 percent from this time last year. "Everyone is so afraid. They get nervous and might call and say, 'I want to take all of my money out of stocks,' " says Jeannette Innocent, a TIAA-CREF wealth management adviser in Waltham, Mass. But Innocent, who says she often feels like a psychologist as well as a financial adviser, reassures clients that the portfolios of most individuals aren't tanking as fast as the stock market as a whole, if they have solid diversification and an appropriate risk level. "I'm talking to people who may only be down 5 or 6 percent," she says. "Some clients who are more aggressive may be down 8 or 9." Innocent says only four of her approximately 200 clients have pulled out of the market and put their money in FDIC-insured CDs after talking to her.

Gallup asked on September 26 and 27, "Which of the following do you think is the best long-term investment?" Almost a third of Americans chose safe, low-return financial vehicles that will be lucky to outpace inflation. They responded: savings accounts/CDs (31 percent), real estate (26 percent), stocks/mutual funds (23 percent), and bonds (13 percent).

Have you changed your investment strategy in the past few weeks?