Time was when most people thought buying a house was the best investment they could make. Now, real estate is stone-dead, and more folks than ever are jumping into stocks. Americans remain relatively cautious: Though 401(k) plans and the like represent an important path into the market, half of survey respondents don't sink any retirement money at all into stocks. And investors have realistic expectations of their returns--even after the boom times of the past 19 months. Still, more individuals are investing more money in stocks than ever.

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