Do you have a question about your financial affairs? Financial planning consultant, Robert S. Pennartz, takes calls at 1-302-654-5556, extension 138 or 1-800-366-0632, extension 138. A selection of these questions and Pennartz's responses are published in this column. Anonymity is assured.Q. It seems like everyday I see on the news that the stock market is going down. Now, I'm not panicked because I have some time to go before I retire, but I'm wondering how much longer can this market decline go on?

A. I think we're all wondering that. Obviously, no one has a crystal ball and can accurately predict movement in the stock market. We can look at average lengths of time for past "bear" markets, but that's just averages. One event that I think is revealing is the last bear market (2000 - 2002) hit bottom on October 9, 2002. On that date the five major domestic stock indexes (the Dow, S & P 500, MASDAQ, Wilshire 5000 and the Russell 2000) all hit market lows on that date. The very next day (October 10, 2002), the USA Today's headline was "Where's the Bottom? No End in Sight." In spite of that headline, the S & P gained 99 percent and the NASDAQ gained 157 percent from that low point over the next five years. Individuals cannot invest directly in any index and unlike investments, indices does not incur management fees, charges or expenses. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Being a contrarian has its merits. Just when all of the so called "experts" agree on one thing, the opposite will probably happen.

o Robert S. Pennartz is a certified financial planner practitioner at the Financial House, a Registered Investment Advisor, in Centreville,

Del. Based on analysis of factors including growth of assets (under management) and growth of average assets (per client) relative to your peers, he has been named a top advisor by Reuters, the global information company. He lives in Pocopson Township with his wife and children. He is a registered representative offering securities through Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation, member SIPC. Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation and its representatives do not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult your individual tax or legal professional regarding your individual circumstances.

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