Three things to do if the economy turns around
First, the real estate market is really gapped between what banks will finance, and what buyers will sell for - the banks are boxing everything they see and that box is not very big - and the banks are also, just like in 1929 , undergoing a cashflow problem so they're going to sell from their inventory of properties fairly reasonably - and they are motivated to sell. Buyer's market.
So, if you can - you might want to sell your home (get a good price on the thing) and then jump into one of these bank-owned homes. Do not finance it through the bank, but set your financing up and arrive at their door with cash in hand, and walk away with a really great deal.
Second. Buy stock. Ok - you didn't get in at the very bottom. Thats ok. That type of investment or statistical analysis is really just for people who are crazy enough to think they see patterns in noise. Nostradamus types. Jump in while the arc is set upward. The markets have a huge amount of traction up to 10,000 or higher - and it might just take a few years to get there. Be able to hold, don't day trade this market because it has a lot of resistance around the 7,700 to 9,000 level. It might vary beween 7500 and 9000 for a while here. But once it breaks 10k you're going to be smiling.
Third. Buy stock in privately held corporations. I could write an entire post on this topic, but its the best way to go - get in a good company before it goes to market. Skip this step if you can't do either 1, or 2 - because this is a place where the downside is pretty huge but the upside is even bigger. Sink about a third of your money into a good company. You should be able to see for yourself whether or not it is going to deliver a usable product to the market - one that you can see a market for , fairly easily. Do your homework.
There are times when its really, really great to have money. And times when its not going to make a difference. And right now, its really , really great to have cash to spend. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. Don't sell off your 401k to do it, but maybe work a bit harder and get things squared off so you can take advantage of it.
PS. Don't kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg! Put a good solid third of your money into money that makes more money. Get another third for making life better (education, for yourself, your kids - things that improve life w/o luxury) . And then sink a third down into the basic necessities. Something like that. There are variations to this theme. Find something that works and stick with it.
NOTE: If you're reading this and you're really young - disregard the thirds rule and go for one quarter of your monthly income to rent and utilities, one quarter to car payment, one quarter to groceries and necessities and one quarter to save.