First, a bit of good news. The average stock mutual fund will post a gain in this final quarter of 2002. But the bad news is most will finish in the red for the year.

That will mark the third straight year of losses, and the third straight year that bond funds have outperformed stock funds -- something that hasn't happened since the 1930s.

A Wall Street Journal story, citing research by Lipper, says the average fund will likely post a percentage loss in the double digits, though it didn't provide further details. It's not hard to estimate, though, considering the performance of three major indexes so far this year:

Dow Jones Industrial Avg.  -16%
S&P 500                    -22%
Nasdaq                     -31%

Though the last few months have provided some relief, investors -- disheartened by the length of the bear market -- are still wary about stocks, according to the article.

If you're feeling lost and unsure about what to do next, you can start with a special we ran in July, Definitive Advice for a Bear Market. There you'll find tips for enduring and outsmarting this bear. It will help you stay focused on the long term, and perhaps show you that -- although unusually long -- this downturn is part of the normal ebb and flow of the markets. Give it a read.