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Apocalypse Dow!

Inflation recently touched a 17-year peak. Foreclosures have spiked relative to this time last year. Legendary investors like Bill Miller and Warren Buffett are deep in the red on a year-to-date basis. Is it the end of the world as we know it?

We feel fine
In a word, no.

Turns out the business cycle hasn't been repealed, and while the ever-tightening credit market has added a new wrinkle to this particular rough patch, every period of extreme market volatility has come laced with its own special blend of arsenic.

Readers of a certain age, for instance, will recall "stagflation." "Irrational exuberance" about a "new economy" will be familiar to anyone who lived through the "tech wreck" of the early '00s. And now -- thanks to a hyperventilating financial media on permanent red alert -- we're focused obsessively on the "meltdown" of the housing market while wringing our hands over commodities "speculators" who are wreaking havoc with the price of everything from natural gas to corn.

Sorry for all the scare quotes there. They just seem appropriate during a period when financial news seems to be morphing into supermarket tabloid fodder. What's next? Angie J. leaves Brad P. for Alan G.?

Opportunity knocks
Jokes aside, I certainly don't mean to suggest that near-term events don't matter; they do. Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB  ) , Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) , Genentech (NYSE: DNA  ) , and Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD  ) have managed to tack on gains over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, stalwarts such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) have notched moderate to steep declines over the period.

That said, focusing on the latest apocalyptic headlines is no way to become a successful investor. At any rate, dodging the sort of macro-level bullets that have rocked the market lately is a virtually impossible task.

But the corollary to that -- and this is where the news gets good for intelligent, long-term investors -- is that volatility really does create opportunity. Juicy cases in point: Cisco Systems and eBay -- two fine firms with years-long track records of cranking out loads of free cash flow and growing top-line revenue -- are now trading around their respective 52-week lows.

The world according to GARP
Profitable, growth-oriented companies trading at steep discounts to their worth are what rock-solid retirement-ready nest eggs are built on -- and this market is providing them for the taking.

Not coincidentally, those are precisely the kinds of "growth at a reasonable price" (or "GARP") firms we've tapped for the real-money, set-and-forget portfolio that powers the Fool's new Ready-Made Millionaire service. 

Preserving capital while pursuing growth is our reason for being, and while we've taken our lumps during these turbulent times, we remain fully confident in our lineup. Indeed, as we see it, Mr. Market is throwing a fire sale, providing ample opportunity to buy quality on the cheap. If you'd like to set and forget your portfolio, we invite you to find about more about our service while snagging -- for the low, low price of absolutely nothing -- a special free report dubbed “The 11-Minute Millionaire.” The report, a Foolish write-up that serves up a power trio of investment tips, will help you navigate up and down markets with aplomb. Click here to check it out and find out more about Ready-Made Millionaire -- for free.

This article was originally published on September 3, 2008. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Ready-Made Millionaire service and doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned. The Fool's strict disclosure policy loves the smell of profits in the morning.

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