Money Talks: Lessons from the Crash of 1987

"It was chaos on October 19th. Nobody quite knew what was happening, other than that the market was falling out of bed. Nobody expected it to be that bad. It was the biggest one day percentage drop in U.S. history up to that time or since that time," said long-time economist Dick Sylla.

Sylla is also chairman of the Museum of American Finance. He's describing Black Monday: Oct 19th, 1987: one of the scariest days ever on Wall Street.

"We had to ask ourselves... could stocks really be worth 22 percent less on Monday evening than they had been at the close of the market on the previous Friday? That was hard for us to answer, so we had to re-evaluate some of our economic theories," Sylla said.

I was a stock broker myself on Oct 19th, 1987 - so I can assure you it's a day I'll never forget. But this is more than history. Because this crash has some lessons all investors can learn.

"First lesson is that the stock market is a risky place. It delivers good returns in the long run. But it can also fall out of bed on short notice."

And investors should look at a downturn and consider it an opportunity.

"When Wall Street has a crash, I call it a sale on stocks."

Lessons like that can make you money - for example, in 1987 when the market crashed, I was too freaked out to buy. I just stood there like a deer in the headlights. This time when the market melted down in 2008, I didn't. I stood up. I bought, and I made money.

Bottom line? Remembering these lessons will help you do what every investor should strive for... Buy low and sell high. Want more information? Go to and search for "investing."

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