If what doesn't kill you really does make you stronger, then retirement investors will rule the roost in 2009.
While the financial world crashed and burned in 2008, there was hardly a moment to pause and ask, "OK, but what can we learn from this?"
Now as consumers take a breather, pop the corks and usher in 2009, it's a great time to reflect on how those costs came with a few lessons. Here is what Bankrate learned.
13 smart-money strategies for retirement in 2009
1. Exhale "It sounds like a cliche, but take a deep breath," says Chris Farrell, author of "Right on the Money! Taking Control of Your Personal Finances."
"There's a lot of fear," he says. "It's clear we're in a recession. And, particularly for people in retirement, it's disconcerting to realize how much of your savings has vaporized."
For younger workers, "it's probably the first time they've seen something like this," says Greg Daugherty, executive editor of Consumer Reports.
"But that money has vaporized only on paper, unless you've cashed in," he says. "Unless you have to do something -- and some people do -- if you have time to ride it out, you'll do just fine."
Smart money always avoids the extremes. "The worst thing you can do is cash out in a panic or arrive at retirement unprepared with everything in stocks," says Jill Gianola, a Certified Financial Planner and author of "The Young Couples Guide to Growing Rich Together."
2. Keep saving "As hard as it is, you want to keep doing it," Farrell says. "You still get a nice tax deduction. And even though some employers are cutting back on the match, that match is still the best return on investment you'll get."
Even without a match, a retirement investment is a good deal, says Wayne Bogosian, co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to 401(k) Plans."
"The only guaranteed money you have for your financial future is money you put there yourself," he says.
If you thought it was a good idea to save and invest aggressively when the markets were doing well, it makes even more sense now, says Bogosian. "Your portfolio will come back faster and farther," if you keep making those contributions, he says.
3. Realize the upside In terms of what you've lost on paper, "the only thing depressed is the share price," says Bogosian. "The number of shares you own is the same." And when those share prices grow, so will your portfolio.
"It's hard for folks to follow this advice, but what I'd say is look at this as an opportunity," Bogosian says. Toward that end, keep putting money into your retirement fund. And if you can step it up a little, that can be a smart move, he says.
"Some stocks and mutual funds are at 15- to 20-year lows," says Bogosian.
When it comes to retirement savings, "if you can afford to kick it up a notch, do it," he says. "It will pay you huge dividends when the markets come back."