Perhaps it's a good time to invest in mattresses?

Q: I am 72 and have a meeting soon with my broker. I have a portfolio of $68,000. I also have a check for $6,000 that I might like to invest. Should I sell all and cash the check and put it all under my mattress? Wait until the market hits bottom and then buy back? Or just go ahead and buy more mutual funds?
Name withheld, San Marcos, Calif.

A: "We don't know what your total assets are or your need for cash," says David Bendix, president of Bendix Financial Group, in Garden City, N.Y. "But putting money under mattresses is never a good idea," he says, although he assumes you are joking.

Mr. Bendix believes that the market may be getting close to the bottom, but not yet. "We're probably in the 7th inning," he says.

Bottom line: "This is not a good time to cash out of the market," he says. "Wait for the smoke to clear to see what you need to do. Just make certain you have enough liquid assets on hand to live on."

Regarding the check for $6,000, he suggests you park it in a short-term bond fund and then wait a little longer to see how the market fares. "You could always move it into stocks later this year," he says.

In addition, if your assets are in a tax-sheltered account, Bendix suggests keeping the money there to avoid any capital-gains taxes. Of course, your portfolio may now have large losses because of the market fall, so you could benefit by writing off some of your red ink.

Q: I work for a nonprofit religious-linked organization. Does the federal Cobra law, which allows workers to carry their health insurance plan with them for 18 months at their own expense after they leave an employer, apply to me in case I quit?
M.S., Scotch Plains, N.J.

A: Churches and other religious organizations have the option to not participate in the Cobra program. Check with your benefits department to see what its policy is regarding health insurance after a worker leaves his or her job.

Q: What is "income averaging?"
R.M., New York

A: According to financial planner Ric Edelman, income averaging is taking income from an investment in US government securities and then putting it into stocks on a regularly scheduled basis.

The idea is to keep your principal safe in the bonds, while your income goes into the stock market. He discusses the concept in his book "The Truth About Money."

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