But what about the recent plunges in stocks? That's actually a positive sign, investment pros say: Stocks are now cheaper.
"We've been waiting for a sell-off. That sell-off has come," says Nicholas Sargen, chief investment officer for Fort Washington Investment Advisors, a Cincinnati-based money management firm. "We think this is a good opportunity."
To be sure, today's markets include wild cards that just might pop – or fizzle. Financial stocks, especially those of major banks, have taken a beating of late. Example: Bank of America stock lost 20 percent of its value over a few hours of trading on Aug. 8. Multiple factors have been at work, including worries about big banks' exposure to shaky European debt.
"There's huge opportunity and huge risk if you're talking about large, money center banks," Mr. Morse says. Best prospects, in his view, include firms such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., which aren't overly concentrated in one industry (e.g., housing) and have relatively clean balance sheets with few remaining bad loans or write-offs.
Some investors aren't ready to dive into the banking sector. South Texas Money Management is leery of financial stocks, Mr. Kee says, especially those with significant exposure to European sovereign debt or US mortgages. Other investors, however, think markets have been too hard on banks, including those that aren't on the hook for risky European debt.