The major market indexes crumbled today in a continuation of the volatility we’ve seen for a few weeks now, and it seemed like there were few places for exchange traded fund (ETF) investors to go.

As an indicator of how things were today, the Volatility Index (VIX) hit an all-time high. The index has been in existence for 18 years, and the spike indicates that investors want out of their risky positions. Today’s record of 55 surpasses last week’s record of 46.72, reports Jeff Kearns for Bloomberg.

While the market rebounded off very sharp losses earlier today, the Dow is now below the 10,000 mark for the first time since 2004. All of the major market indexes fell about 5%. The impetus for the selloff was the realization that the bailout plan isn’t going to work quickly, report Joe Bel Bruno and Tim Paradis for the Associated Press.

All in all, the S&P 500 isn’t far off from its decade-ago levels. This chart shows both the S&P and the Dow for the last decade:

Dow S&P 500

With nearly six out of 10 Americans believing that we’re headed for a depression, we know that many investors have questions, and they’re afraid. Some people are asking without irony whether they should take their money out of the bank and hide it in a mattress. We answered a few questions here last week, when the Dow had another terrible day. It’s worth it to review them.

Aaron Task for Tech Ticker also addressed the issue of what investors should be doing now:

  • Review your portfolio and see if you’re really diversified. You can’t control the markets, but you can control how you’re diversified.
  • Make sure your portfolio fits your time horizon.
  • Know your risk profile.

It’s good advice for any investor at any point, but it’s especially true now, when some have taken huge losses. Above all, though, remember not to panic. Evaluate where you stand while remaining calm and rational.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.