Despite some occasional upbeat economic news, it's still hard to ignore just how fragile the U.S. economy is, with an anemic growth rate and stubbornly high unemployment on top of the hobbled real estate market and troubles in Europe.

Third-quarter volatility was just another reminder of how risky equities can be. Many investors are spooked. Just one indication: There is nearly $3 trillion sitting in money-market accounts and CDs.

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