Smart Money: Stock market is still the best bet


DEAR BRUCE >> I'm a 58-year-old woman on Social Security disability. I get about $3,000 a month and have about $50,000 in savings. Is there any safe way to invest my money?

I have bonds, and I have a financial planner who tells me I am very conservative with investing. I cannot afford to lose this money. I did, however, take a horrible blood bath in the stock market and lost over six figures in 2000.

I know I don't have enough money to see me through life. Is there anything I can do that is safe and yet will earn me more money on the little bit I do have?

— Emma

DEAR EMMA >> You say you lost six figures in 2000. The only reason you lost is because you tried to "cut your losses" and sold when the market dropped. Had you not sold and left the money in the market, you would have recovered every single dime and a profit.

That having been said, I would encourage you to consider (particularly as young as you are) getting back in the market. Your broker says that you are conservative. That's not exactly a good observation. I would consider putting at least $35,000 to $40,000 of your savings in the market, in strong American companies that have been around for a while and that pay dividends. There may be years in which you lose money, but on balance, you'll come out way ahead of the game.

DEAR BRUCE >> I'm 61 and a retired federal employee who receives a small pension and a monthly withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan 401(k). Does it make sense to increase my withdrawal amount from the 401(k) so that I can put off filing for Social Security?

— C.E.

DEAR C.E. >> It appears to me that you can withdraw from your Thrift Savings Plan and not collect Social Security for the next eight years. In the long run, you'll be way ahead of the game. I would put off the Social Security retirement as long as possible.

DEAR BRUCE >> I saw an article about a firm that was trusted to do debt consolidation. Could you please tell me how to reach them?

— R.S.

DEAR R.S. >> There are a number of companies that can be trusted to help with debt consolidation. My personal experience leads me to recommend American Consumer Credit Counseling. They will take you under their wing and show you how to reconstruct your payments to your best advantage.

I am not suggesting this is going to be easy, but the fact that you recognize that you need some help is a wonderful first step.

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