As the bull market that has spanned two decades continues into the new millennium, a furious debate is raging. Are investors setting themselves up for a big fall, or are they positioning themselves to profit from an era of unprecedented technological change? However the question is resolved, one thing is clear: Americans are revising their beliefs about financial risk. The traditional view, forged during the Depression, defines risk as exposure to loss. But many investors today seem more concerned about being left behind by a market that has rewritten the rules as it has climbed ever higher. Indeed, a BUSINESS WEEK/Harris Poll conducted in early December indicates that while a majority of Americans think stocks are overvalued, most assume the market will head higher. Still, it's worth noting that more stocks fell than rose in 1999. That is a reminder that it's too soon to declare the old-fashioned definition of risk dead. To give you tools you need for this new era, the articles that follow explain how the definition of risk is shifting and why investors appear more willing to take on risk. We also help you assess whether you've taken on the right amount of risk to meet your goals and how to structure a portfolio to give you the best possible returns for the risk you're comfortable taking.

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