How are you feeling about the stock market today?

Do feel fear? Guilt? Anger? All are understandable yet all your feelings are fueled by underlying thoughts and expectations. What were your thoughts as the markets jumped around last week?

To ground yourself for the week ahead move toward what you least want to think about. Run out the scenario you fear most. Then be realistic about the probability of you living in a homeless shelter and your kids are looking at you like it’s all your fault. What are the chances of your fears becoming reality?

The market has yet to open so who knows what the week will hold but based on the conflicting perspectives and tone of the commentators (they love to stir up the fear and panic), anything could happen.

With uncertainty lies opportunity. If you have the risk tolerance, trust your skill and instinct and make some investments based on solid, long-term value analysis. This does not seem to be a great time to time the market or trade but if you know a bargain when you see one (you either have a good track record or you don’t) then set some price targets and go shopping.

If you don’t like the long term (5 to 10 years) prospects of an investment and it drains your energy then maybe it’s time to exit.

Focus on what you can control:

  • Your spending – what you think you really need, most likely you don’t.
  • Your use of debt – except for strategic investments, the de-leveraging theme seems to be a good one for the next 5 years or so – get rid of car leases, home equity lines, and other consumer debt.
  • Your savings – you and I will live longer, God willing, and the government will not be able to support us like it did our parents so save more.
  • Your expectations – retirement may look different than you had envisioned it, as may the way you pay for college and the size of your estate. Reality doesn’t cause nearly as much pain as expectations.

On my recent family road trip back and forth between Colorado and California, I reflected on the fundamental strength of American capitalism, the will of this country’s people and its substantial resources. Yes, many of our systems are beyond broken and until there is real pain they will not get fixed or replaced. Yet as I stared out on the farmland in Southern California, I had no doubt of our long-term prosperity.

In the short term it may be best to take a break from CNBC and your favorite talk radio shows.