The Dow industrials plunged 400 points in just five minutes Monday afternoon, after it became clear the House was going to reject the government's...

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The Dow industrials plunged 400 points in just five minutes Monday afternoon, after it became clear the House was going to reject the government’s $700 billion bailout plan.

“Like it or not, investing in stocks has become similar to participating in an extreme sport, like rock climbing without any equipment,” says economist Edward Yardeni, who runs his own research firm.

Some investors might have grown used to volatile market conditions since the credit crisis began in mid-2007. But few were likely well-equipped for the whiplash of Monday’s conditions or the tumult of the Sept. 15 week, when three financial companies succumbed to the mortgage crisis.

Stocks offer better returns than cash and bonds over long periods, but that might be tough to swallow in a climate like this one.

It’s a good idea for investors who are feeling especially unsettled to reassess their risk appetites, says Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist for Charles Schwab.

Investors who became heavy in stocks during the bull market might realize they were too aggressive. Those who invested conservatively might not be generating returns beyond the pace of inflation, Sonders adds.

If allocations are out of whack, investors can simply rebalance, without trying to time the market, she says.

“From an emotional perspective, don’t worry about trying to pick what day you rocket [your allocations] back up to your target,” says Sonders. “There is no wrong time to get your financial ducks in order.”

Staying true to allocation plans means investors are likely to “trim into strength and buy into weakness,” a strategy that is known to pay off, she says.