DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents used to talk about hiding money in their mattress. It was very old-school thinking, but now I understand the value of their thoughts. I am closer to retirement today than I was before the markets started crashing. My 401(k) has tanked in recent weeks. What I thought was a decent retirement is worth pennies now. I wish I had stashed some money in my house. Now I’m not sure what to do. What is your advice? -- Dwindling Retirement
DEAR DWINDLING RETIREMENT: Talk to a financial professional. Lay your finances out as transparently as you can. Explain your plan for retirement, including when and how. Look at your resources to see what you believe you will have to support yourself when you get there. It is true that the stock market’s recent falls have negatively impacted most 401(k) plans. Unless you are retiring very soon, it is unlikely that you will be encouraged to take money out of the stock market. In most cases throughout history, the stock market has improved after dropping, but that happens with time. The best thing you can do is to work with an investing professional who can help guide you through this tumultuous time to make smart choices for your life.