About halfway down the page, I'm going to make a confession. It's not that I missed the "doomsday" rally. At least not entirely. But it pains me to write it nonetheless.
Or maybe I should look on the bright side. After all, whether we admit it or not, a lot of hardworking investors got whipsawed by the market this year -- having cashed out at the bottom in March then missing out on the bounce.
Who could blame us?
Jim Cramer beseeched us to sell, sell, sell. Shark-jumpers like Ben Stein, who had shrugged off the Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM ) subprime debacle and hustled us into financials like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) at the top, suddenly decided that the stock market was rigged against individual investors.
By March, grown men wrung their hands like distressed schoolgirls on CNBC, lamenting the end of capitalism and hailing the dawn of the next depression. Even once-rational financial advisors -- folks who are paid to know better -- pronounced the death of buy and hold and told us to get "proactive" with our lifesavings.
In short, we got some crappy advice. How else do you lose nearly 60% in Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , one of the great success stories of the past decade? How else does a long-term investor saving for a distant retirement lose more than 60% in Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , a stock that subsequently hit all-time highs?
OK, here's my confession
I didn't sell Google at the bottom. I didn't sell Amazon, either. In fact, I didn't sell anything. But I didn't back up the truck, either. Not in March. Not in April. Not in May. I did buy in November 2008, nibbled a little over the summer, and have been buying on the rare down day lately, but not nearly enough.
Again, can you blame me? Some of what those nervous Nellies said made sense. I'd owned Bank of America for years, and was overweight financials in my index funds. But gun-to-my-head, I didn't know what was going on behind closed doors. Moreover, if the entire global financial system collapsed, would it even matter?
Frankly, I was spooked like you were. As a result, the kind of new money I'd eagerly funneled into the market when prices were higher started piling up in cash. Worse, when what should have been a perfectly timed windfall fell into my lap, I didn't get that into the market, either. Before I knew it, I had more cash in my Schwab account than ever before.
Now the worst part
Look, I'm not complaining about having too much money. And I'm not talking about a million dollars here. The point is, I should have known better. I knew that the world wasn't coming to an end in March. I'd been through this same thing before. I'd bought in '91 and in '03. I never lost faith in stocks for the long term.
And, let's be honest, while my decision to stop investing was passive at first, as the market climbed higher, I consciously screwed up. And the more the rebound gained steam, the more I dragged my feet. You may be in the same boat.
Now here we are: sitting on cash, singing the blues, waiting for a pullback. But what's done is done. What matters is what we do now. So let's talk through our options. We could simply sit tight. After all, exactly one-half of the "experts" you see on TV are convinced we're due for a massive sell-off.
We could get better prices in a few weeks or months. On the other hand, isn't this the exact same kind of thinking that got us into this mess to begin with? And even if we do get a pullback, 20 years from now, will we even remember if we caught the precise bottom? I doubt it. I think we have to get in.
But the easy money has been made
Let's face it, March 2009 is history. All you needed to make money back then was guts. Pull up a chart of walking-wounded Citigroup (NYSE: C ) or even AIG (NYSE: AIG ) right now if you don't believe me. But after a 50% bounce that lifted all boats, that ship has sailed.
That's why I don't advise jumping in and buying "the market" right now. But I don't think we should be in cash, either. Apparently the top brass at The Motley Fool agrees. For the first time in two years, the portfolio managers at Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio are investing new cash -- with an interesting twist.
Like the original $1 million investment, this new money will be expertly allocated to only the best opportunities from across The Motley Fool's investment newsletters. However, this new $250,000 infusion will be managed in a separate real-money portfolio -- making it as easy as possible for new members to follow along step-by-step and "catch up."
Here's why this matters to you ...
In addition to adding new money, Million Dollar Portfolio is accepting new members for the first time in 15 months -- but only for a short time, over the next few weeks, and by invitation only. I missed out when the service opened two years ago, but this time I will be personally investing myself.
If you think you might be interested in joining me, I encourage you to enter your email address in the box below and click the button. This way you'll be the first to hear when the service opens and the investing begins. Whatever you decide, I hope you'll learn from my mistake.
Studies confirm that sitting out just a handful of the market's best days can be devastating to your long-term wealth. So if, like me, you have money set aside for stocks sitting in cash, don't get cute. Don't let the kooks on TV spook you -- especially when prices are reasonable. It's a recipe for heartache.
And, remember, we're in this together. If you're looking to get back in the game and want a little extra step-by-step guidance, why not learn more about Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio? Simply enter your email address below.