How the market drop affects you

HOUSTON [INTERACTIVE: Understanding the financial meltdown]
[SEE IT: Download the $700B bailout (pdf)]
[STOCKS TUMBLE: The market began spiraling after Monday's vote] [HOW TEXANS VOTED: See how our legislators voted]

There were no winners Monday. When the Dow drops 778 points, I can almost guarantee you lost money. The S&P 500 index, which tracks more stocks than the Dow, was way down. If you had $100,000 in your 401K there on Friday, it's worth $5,000 less today.

As Congress voted and Wall Street traded, thousands of dollars of your money vanished. All this talk of Wall Street and Main Street being separate beasts may not be true for all of us invested in the market.

So what to do?

Well, if you're not spending the money today and don't need it tomorrow, the advice is to sit still.

"Hold onto your investment and hold Congress accountable to find a solution to the problem that willhelp the banking industry and eventually you'll come out OK," said TSU finance professor Zahid Oqbar.

It sounds familiar. It's the advice they give every time the market drops, but it's not easy to follow.

I called my broker Monday. His advice was to sit if you can and sell if you can't sleep. If you are living on invested money now or need it soon for college or a home or something else, it may be time to get professional advice. There may be safer places to put your money.

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