Wall Street hits a wall

Until this “recent tempest,” Wall Street was a “black box on the Hudson that worked its own brand of magic,” said Fortune’s Shawn Tully in CNNMoney.com. But even as Wall Street firms brought in “sumptuous returns” year after year, they were really just utilizing “towering leverage” in “a long-running bull market that blatantly underpriced risk.” Sadly, the overpaid “Wall Street managers aren’t geniuses but big risk-takers who get lucky. Until they get unlucky.” Now that they’re unlucky, these firms should do three things: focus on fee-based services, not highly “speculative” trading; slash their “excessive” employee compensation; and kick their “addiction to leverage.”

The fallout for the rest of us

Amid the carnage, “what’s an individual investor to do?” says Kathy Kristof in the Los Angeles Times. First of all, as you watch your “tumbling portfolio,” remember that “the worst decision is a rash one.” Unless you need your “stock market money” in the next year—and that money shouldn’t be in stocks—“hang tight.” If you’re nervous, write out your “worst-case scenario,” and plan how you’d deal with it. Next, readjust your portfolio, selling bonds to buy stock while it’s low, or reassessing your risk tolerance. Then shut off your computer. If you’re retired and living off falling investments, though, you might have to take one more step: “Get a part-time job to boost your income or learn to live on less.”