Jeff Sherman: “I am not what you would call a Y2K doomsayer. However, just in case, what is the downside to selling the mutual funds in my 401(k) now, putting the money in a money market fund (or leaving it as cash), and repurchasing the mutual funds after the new year when I am comfortable there have been no major snafus that will cause continuing problems to the companies in my funds or to the market in general? I am aware that if everyone did this, it would be a very bad thing.”

The downside is that you lose whatever gain the market might make while you’re out of it.

There’s a chance the market will zoom when the lights stay on (or even before that, in anticipation of the lights staying on); a good chance the market won’t do too much either way; a chance it will plunge (whether the lights stay on or not); and a chance that, having jumped by the time you get back in, it will then plunge.

The conventional wisdom is never to try to time the market, even if, as within a 401k, you don’t incur taxes by doing so. That said, you should do what you’re comfortable doing. Maybe take some off the table and leave the rest?

More on Y2K tomorrow.

Clare Durst: “About the solar cookers in Third World countries: Earthwatch Institute has for a number of years been one of the sponsors of the group introducing these cookers to Indonesian women. They’re apparently quite successful, although it does involve learning new ways to cook. Anyone interested can join an expedition to help in this project or many more. So herewith a plug for Earthwatch!

“This venerable institution has provided a link between scientists, anthropologists, and archaeologists, who have ecologically sound projects they need help with — and people who’d like to spend their vacations working and learning with them for a couple of weeks. I’ve been on three expeditions but learned about a number of others as well and can vouch for the integrity of the institution. Basically, you choose a project that sounds interesting and pay to support it and your own participation. Since you WORK for these weeks (digging up dinosaurs, or Roman ruins, or teaching maternal health, or tracking birds or cheetahs, whatever), it is tax-deductible, and in almost every case I’ve heard of, a great adventure. People wanting to investigate further should look at earthwatch.org.”

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