It's tough out there on the investment front lines.

So we asked four investor show they're doing. Then we asked some experts how they're really doing.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Ren Braun holds more than 30 blue-chip stocks, several mutual funds, and he's worried.

"The market has been overvalued for a long time. Everything just keeps going up, often without any rational reason."

Little wonder that Dr. Braun, a retired physician who lives in Sedona, Ariz., turns to the business pages almost every day to track the market and his investments.

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Braun has not come to investing overnight. He has been a serious stock picker since the early 1980s, surviving the merger-mania and market excesses of that decade, the crash of 1987, and the downturn of 1990, at the Today, Braun has some 40 percent of his portfolio in stocks, 30 percent in bonds, and 30 percent in cash holdings.

While enthusiastic owning individual stocks, Braun is not especially keen about mutual funds. He calls them "overrated."

Still, he has money in several funds, including an S&P 500 Index Fund, a growth stock fund, and a Europe stock fund. When buying mutual funds, Braun looks for high returns over time, solid ratings, and low expenses.

But his forte is individual stocks, especially the fortress, blue-chip companies. Core holdings include General Electric, Chase Manhattan Bank, and several utilities.

He also owns several computer/Internet-related stocks, such as Dell Computer, America Online, and Intel, but says that he wants to lighten up on the high-tech side in case that market heads south.

Braun says he intends to stay fully invested. But that is not totally sanguine news, he says, considering that the market has shot up in value so dramatically over the past few years, and is now showing signs of increasing turbulence.

Still, Peggy Farley, who heads investment firm Ascent Asset management in New York, says Braun shouldn't be overly concerned.

"Stocks will continue to outperform bonds and other investments into the next millennium," she says. "Interest rates are low, inflation is negligible, the supply of government bonds (T-bills) is declining. So stocks," she says, "are and will be the place to be."

Ms. Farley also likes Braun's asset allocation plan and his overall portfolio. Dell, Intel, and AOL are excellent companies, she says.

She suggests that Braun might want to sell some of his AOL position on the next market rise, and then perhaps sell a low-performing stock to offset his gain for tax purposes.

But AOL will probably become "more like a utility," she says, which means it should be around and vibrant for many years.

She also agrees with Braun that mutual funds may be overrated as investments, since so few of them beat or even equal market averages. Farley believes that individual stocks are the investments of first choice.

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