The financial crisis and recession are officially over, but the stock market hesitates in its attempt toreach new highs for 2011 and beyond. Economic growth has been in question as unemploymentstubbornly remains at high levels relative to the norm. This situation is unusual for an economicrecovery; but don't speculate about the future of stocks and don't avoid stock funds. The bestinvestment strategy here is to favor general diversified stock funds that invest in high quality,dividend-paying U.S. companies vs. smaller less-stable companies that pay little in the way ofdividends. Then diversify even further with international funds to spread out your risk. In this wayyou will participate if stocks continue to struggle upward, but you shouldn't get hammered tooseverally if they don't. Your best stock strategy if you lean to the conservative side is to lighten upon diversified stock funds in general. As a financial planner I often recommended both gold funds and real estate funds to averageinvestors, even when traditional investment strategy all but ignored these investment options. Bothof these funds add additional diversification and balance to a portfolio. Both have also experiencedchanges in character in recent times that deviates from past norms. For years real estate fundswere steady performers and paid handsome dividends. They were clobbered in the recentfinancial crisis and recession. Even with a 4 Â½ % mortgage rate the real estate sector lacksgusto in turning around, but at least realty prices are not excessively high. The best investmentstrategy here if you believe the industry will recover in 2011 or beyond: put 5% to 10% in a realestate fund to further diversify your portfolio. Now let's talk about the last extreme in today's investment scene, precious metals. If you think thattoday's infatuation with gold is normal, here are some historical lows and highs for an ounce ofgold, in round numbers, you should look at. From a low of $100 in 1976... to a high of $850 in1980... and then down to $250 in 2001. Since 2001 began, gold has glittered, with its pricepushing through $1400 in December of 2010. In that same time period stocks struggled. Don'tpush your luck in 2011 and beyond. Gold and gold funds are not a growth investment and areanything but safe at today's prices. Your best investment strategy is to cut back if you have moneyhere, and to stay away if you don't. Gold has become a speculation vs. a traditional hedge againstinflation, which is presently mild by any standard. Getting more aggressive is sometimes the best investment strategy... like when prices are hittingextreme LOWS in the investment markets. For 2011 and beyond it's best to focus on the extremesthat could spell trouble in the future as they unfold... like extremely low interest rates suddenlyclimbing significantly. Protect your investment portfolio with a good defense, diversify across theboard to deal with uncertainty, and live to invest more aggressively another day. Author James Leitz teaches investment basics, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investing and how toinvest in his investing guide for beginners called INVEST INFORMED. Put Jim's 40 years ofinvesting experience to work for you and learn how to invest at http://www.investinformed.comtoday.