It’s January, and during this first month I always spend more time pondering the year ahead. My assumption is that there will be no gain in the stock market overall in 2010, following the 23.5% rise in the S&P 500 last year. In fact, I recommend being prepared for a fall back. Boom years rarely follow boom years. In hindsight, investors were overly pessimistic last March and, following the subsequent 70% stock market surge, are now overly optimistic regarding the economic outlook. A market drop of 10%–20% is likely, just to get things back into balance. Do not be lulled into complacency. This will be a challenging year for investors to eke out a positive return in their portfolios.