Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and all the King's horsemen could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
The Stock Market has had a great fall and all the brokers, CEOs, analysts and politicians have not been able to get it back up again.
Oh, it will go up again, but if history has a way of repeating it will be a long time before we see it at "even". From 1920 to the present there have been 3 major bull markets lasting close to 16 years. Unfortunately, each has been followed by a bear market of about the same length of time. So far we are ending the 3rd year of the projected down cycle with only 13 more years to get to the bottom. It is a long way off.
At a recent investment seminar one of the speakers asked his large audience if they believed the stock market would be higher 5 years from now. Every one except one thought it would be. The current mindset of most investors believes this also. For the period from 1982 to 2000 (18 years, close enough) there has been a bull market. Every investor has considered himself to be a financial genius during that time. There is an old saying, "The market makes fools of us all ? sooner or later".
Unless you learn to listen to what the market is saying and not your broker, you will be able to recoup some of your losses, but probably not all. During this long-term bear called a secular bear market, your main effort will not be to make money but to keep from losing more. During a bear market the one who loses the least is a winner. You may not like what I say, but history has that strange way of doing it over and over.
Maybe I am wrong about it because "this time it is different". I hope so, but you can protect your money in your 401K or elsewhere with a simple loss limit order. Call your broker and have him place a 10% (or whatever number your prefer) stop-loss order on all your positions. That way you don't guess about where to sell; you let the market tell you when it has turned weak.
Brokers and brokerage companies hate stop-loss orders and will try to talk you out of it. Ask him if he will guarantee your portfolio. You can bet he isn't that dumb. It is your money. Once it is gone you will have very little chance of getting it back. Protect what you have left.
Don't be a Humpty Dumpty!
Author of "If It Doesn't Go Up, Don't Buy It!"
Never lose money in the stock market again.