In response to the market downturn and wide confusion among investors about what they should do, Charles Schwab has published a number of articles on its website offering guidance. Schwab is also holding seminars at its branches, town hall discussions and webcasts.

“When it comes to investing, Schwab is here to help investors build a plan that’s well thought out and can be maintained over time,” said Mark Riepe, senior vice president with Schwab Center for Financial Research.

In “Seven Ways to Take Control of Your Retirement in Rough Times,” Riepe says those in or near retirement should certainly reassess their willingness to withstand both volatility and risk. That said, investors must be mindful of the “risks associated with cash,” he added. “Cash-heavy portfolios typically tend to be less volatile, but we believe they also have poor, long-term return prospects.”

Investors also need to revisit the overriding goals for their portfolio and current cash-flow needs and structure it accordingly. Remember, Schwab says, a 65-year-old has a life expectancy of another 19 years and may need equity exposure to make their portfolio last.

Especially now, Schwab says, “check the quality of your holdings [and] your portfolio concentration. Now is a particularly opportune time to review your specific holdings. [Rid your portfolio of] securities and mutual funds with poor prospects for the future.”

For younger investors who are still contributing to their 401(k)s, Schwab emphasizes the long-term performance of the market in an article titled, “Tips for 401(k) Investing in Today’s Volatile Market.”

Yes, Schwab admits, “it’s an uncomfortable time to be an investor” but now is not the time to give up on the markets. “Keep doing the right thing. Don’t succumb to the market roller coaster,” Schwab advises. As it tells retirees, yes, it’s important tot think about risk and rebalance investments, but investors would be doing themselves a disservice by bailing out of equities entirely, Schwab says.

“For younger investors,” Riepe says, “a heavy dose of mutual funds that invest in stocks will usually make sense. For older investors, those who have less time to make up for any losses, it makes sense for them to be less aggressive. Whatever the right risk tolerance is for you, review the options in your plan and select the ones that make sense for your situation.”

Continue to contribute, do not take out withdrawals and even increase your contribution level to ensure you will be financial ready for retirement, Schwab recommends.

“What matters for stock investors right now is when we’ll get out of this recession. The stock market will start recovering well before the economy itself starts turning around. [And] when that happens, the stock market tends to move up quickly,” Riepe says. “By waiting for the all-clear sign, much of the opportunity for gain is no longer there.”

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