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The trading numbers are displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 11, 2020 in New York.
BRYAN R. SMITH—AFP via Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 6% Wednesday. That big decline — on top of a 7% drop on Monday — meant U.S. stocks are in a bear market for the first time in more than a decade.

The Dow closed at 23,553, down 1,465 points, or 5.9% from Tuesday's close. It’s a big change from just last month when index hit a record high of 29,551 and investors were talking about when it would cross 30,000.

You can chalk the reversal up to fears of the coronavirus, and also the fact that many investors had been worrying that stock prices had climbed too high in recent months and were due for a tumble even without a deadly pandemic sweeping the globe.

If you have a 401(k) or money invested in stocks, it’s no fun to see your savings shrink. But bear markets are part of the game. One of the reasons stocks offer better long-term returns than other investments like bonds or real estate is because of their risk — while they can go up, they can also go down. Sometimes way down.

Here’s what you need to know: