Dear Dr. Don,
Our retirement is invested at Merrill Lynch. We lost money in June and are worried about our future. All we have is in there. Do you think things are going to get worse? Can we afford to wait and watch? We are really afraid.
— Dixie Downturn

Dear Dixie,
I can’t tell the future, and you should be suspicious of people who say they can. It’s been a rocky time for the stock market over the past year, with the S&P 500 market index losing a little more than 20 percent over the past 12 months.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that your best course of action is to sell out of your current investments and buy insured CDs or U.S. Treasury securities. There’s another potential problem — inflation — which can erode the purchasing power of your retirement portfolio by investing too conservatively, just as the loss of principal is impacting the purchasing power today.

(The price of Treasury securities fluctuates with market conditions, but the value at maturity is guaranteed by the U.S. government.)

You should meet with your Merrill Lynch financial consultant and discuss the portfolio’s performance and outlook, and the need to rebalance your holdings in light of your retirement goals.

If you can’t get comfortable, then get a second opinion. I suggest working with a fee-based planner for that second opinion. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors can help you find a fee-based planner in your area.

Bankrate also can help you find a Certified Financial Planner, although you cannot use the tool to search for fee-based planners only.