A glance at a logarithmic graph of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since its inception in 1928 can provide some perspective on recent losses.
The logarithmic scale of the graph linked above is helpful in showing the change in the index as a percentage of its value rather than as units of the index. With that in mind, the present selloff, though certainly sobering, does not look unprecedented.
Actually, much worse for the country was the period from the mid 1960s until the early 1980s when stocks hardly moved at all. Thoughtful folk like SWNID will attribute that prolonged economic stasis to the misguided economic policies of the time, especially to high marginal tax rates that discouraged productive investment and sent money into tax shelters.
With the present selloff, one also observes that since 1999, the market is similarly in prolonged stasis. We attribute that to the prolonged rise in stock values from 1982 to 1999. The market then was overbought and has corrected. Now, we suspect, it is oversold.
In the longer term, the graph shows that the present is hardly like the worst of the past. In fact, its rather like a lot of the past, all of which was followed by better times. Investment bargain hunters will do well in times like these, as will those who use dollar-cost averaging to make steady progress over time.