The bailout big picture

Congress has a real challenge in trying to “improve the bare-bones $700 billion” Wall Street bailout plan, says David Leonhardt in The New York Times, largely because most legislators have little or no “expertise in the byzantine details of mortgage finance.” But if they get it right, the final cost won’t be anywhere near $700 billion. Their best shot is to focus tightly on two questions: “What steps are most likely to solve the immediate crisis? And how can the long-term cost to taxpayers be minimized?” Everything else is a distraction or a detail that, with the credit markets “nearly dysfunctional,” we don’t have time for. Congress should demand a stake in participating firms, and leave executive pay and other issues for later.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

So should you stop contributing to your 401(k) until the markets settle down? says Money’s Walter Updegrave in Certainly not if you’re in your 20s or 30s, and probably not if you’re 60 or 65. That’s not to say that the Wall Street bailout will suddenly shift the economy into “cruising speed,” just that “it would be foolish in the extreme to write off the long-term prospects for stocks.” Investing for retirement is investing for the long haul, and historically, some of the best long-term gains have gone to those who bought “stocks when they’re reviled.” Up through your 40s, consider keeping 80 percent or more of your investment in stocks; if you’re 60, maybe 55 percent. Then, mostly, sit back and wait.