By John Wasik

(Reuters) – For many investors who have stayed away from the stock market for the past four years, this is a Hamlet moment. Returns look so tempting right now as stock indexes show their best performance since May 2008, with technology shares leading the way. To invest or not to invest?

Fortunately, you can take a Polonius approach to the market. He’s the father of Ophelia and Laertes who gets stabbed by Hamlet while spying on the vengeful prince of Denmark. Despite his bad timing, he has some great advice: “This above all: To thine own self be true.”

I’m reminded of Polonius’s speech by the notorious bear money manager Jeremy Grantham, who counsels long-term patience and resilience in a recent newsletter. While Grantham is bullish on “high-quality” (dividend-paying) stocks, oil, copper, forestry and farmland, I’m not suggesting you jump into anything before you do some serious self-analysis.

How do you be true to yourself? You need to lay down a set of investment principles and goals — if you haven’t down so already. When do you want to retire? Are you saving for college? Do you have to take care of an elderly relative? How much risk can you tolerate in the form of annual losses? Once you’ve answered these questions, write them down. This is your template for asset allocation.


Your asset allocation is like making a pie. In fact, when you’re done, it should look like a pie chart with each portion of stocks, bonds, cash and other investments graphically displayed. It won’t come out right, though, unless you’ve been honest with yourself.