Build a Better Nest Egg with 6 Easy Sound Strategies for 2009

Guest blog y Natalie Pace
Author of The ABCs of Money

The stock market lost 38% in 2008, but if you lost more than 20%, your problem wasn't really the stock market, it was the design of your nest egg. Storms occur in markets, as they do in the real world, but your home shouldn't be flooding every time it happens. 

You know intuitively that your retirement plan doesn't work. Your nest egg has drowned twice now in the last eight years. You were elated with your returns in 1999 and then devastated when your assets imploded during the DOT COM bust of 2000-2002. Same thing when Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 14,000 in October of 2007, only to drop below 8000 in 2008. If you had a healthy fiscal plan, your nest egg wouldn't be sinking all of the time. 

And contrary to what your financial advisor may be telling you, the markets returned only 4% over the last ten years, not 12%. That was less than a percentage point above Treasury Bills, at 3.3% annual gains, with a whole lot more risk.

Sound Nest Egg Strategies:
Rule #1: Always keep a percent equal to your age. 

Modern Portfolio Theory, the cornerstone of a healthy nest egg, has been around for half a century and Harry Markowitz, the economist who wrote it, won a Nobel Prize in 1990. Many financial professionals are paid on commission to sell you mutual funds, so, if you weren't protected from the 2008 financial crisis, chances are that either 1) your guru just didn't know the theory, or 2) s/he wasn't paid to employ the theory, or 3) s/he had bosses who pushed sales hard and couldn't employ the theory, or 4) s/he was dumb enough to think s/he could outthink a genius Nobel Laureate.

Grade Your Guru
You wouldn't hire an architect whose buildings flood in a storm. Since there are so many ìprofessionalsî and ìpunditsî who are spouting off -- when in reality they drowned their clients' nest eggs in 2008 -- it's your job to take charge and design a better dream life. As TD AMERITRADE Chairman Joe Moglia says, "Nobody cares more about your money more than you do." 

Bears get lucky in bear markets. Bulls get lucky in bull markets. Sound nest egg strategies work in any market!


Add up your losses. If you lost more than 20% in 2008, your guru isn't making the grade.
Check your allocation. If you didn't start 2008 with a percent equal to your age SAFE in Treasury Bills and/or high-rated bonds (GM, Fannie, etc. DO NOT QUALIFY), your guru isn't looking out for your best interest. 

The pie charts and strategies outlined in Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is saved Bill (a handyman) and Nilo (an office administrator) Bolden's nest egg, while Nilo's bosses lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since employing my strategies, they haven't lost anything.

Before I give you the details on my track record this year, which was outstanding, please note that novices have no business trading individual stocks in this financial storm anymore than beginning surfers should race into the jaws of a tsunami. Don't trade individual companies in 2009 unless: 1) you know how to buy put options and have had a few years of successful trading long and short, and 2) are willing to take your profits early and often. Obviously, if you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to focus on sound nest egg strategies first and education second -- perhaps at my Get Rich and Enrich Retreat. (Check out the banner ad on the home page at for more details.)

70% of the companies I featured in my 2008 monthly article and stock report cards were winners. Of those winners, more than half (58%) were shorts, i.e., companies that we expected to go DOWN in value. 

Blind faith lost you a lot of money in 2008. 2009 is poised to be another stormy environment in stocks, which means that if you don't pull your head out of the sand and get a better dream life plan, you're going to be get buried. 

My Golden Nest Egg Formula
ALWAYS KEEP A PERCENT EQUAL TO YOUR AGE SAFE. Treasury bills are the safest investment today. (High-rated bonds, money markets and CDs are traditionally and will be again in the future.)

DURING RECESSIONS, OVERWEIGHT 15-20% ADDITIONAL INTO SAFETY. Cash is King in a recession, i.e. not losing is winning. You will not be stuck overweighted in cash forever. If the markets continue to drop in 2009, as they are poised to do, you'll be glad you employed this defensive strategy. And you will have cash to invest, while those around you are scrambling to hang on and/or are forced to sell low to cover basic needs. 

REMAINDER IN YOUR NEST EGG SHOULD BE DIVERSIFIED INTO 10 ETFS. You will find detailed pie charts in Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is.

EMERGING INDUSTRIES, NOT DYING COMPANIES. General Motors and Ford Motor Company combined are worth less than one-tenth of Toyota Motor Company's $102 billion. It is not just that Ford and GM have more expenses. GM and Ford lost market share this decade because their gas guzzlers were far less popular than the fuel-efficient Prius and other Toyota models. 

KNOW WHAT YOU OWN, i.e., not mutual funds. The top mutual fund holdings in the U.S. in 2007 included some of the most poorly run companies, including General Motors, AIG, Fannie Mae and Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. ETFs allow you to target sections of the stock market by size (small, medium and large), style (value and growth), industry (gold mining, clean technology, international, biotechnology, etc.) and more. 
DON'T TRADE. If you don't know how to take your profits early and often and/or if you don't know how to buy put options, do not buy and sell individual companies at all in 2009. (Own companies you love in ETFs where you are more protected from the price fluctuations of any one individual company.) 

If you used this 6-step formula and rebalanced only once a year (say in January), you could have captured your gains in 2000 at the NASDAQ high. Likewise, in January of 2008, you would have captured your Dow Jones Industrial Average gains before the major fall-off and redistributed. Identifying where your gains are coming from allows you to increase your assets and redeploy your holdings back into a sound, dream life blueprint – which is a combination of Modern Portfolio Theory, ETFs, common sense and basic investing recipes.