Money Magazine
Money Magazine's undercover financial planner

What your planner should be saying now

Worried about the bear market? Your adviser shouldn't be.

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By The Mole, Money Magazine's undercover financial planner

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Have future topics for the Mole to address? E-mail him at themole@moneymail.com.
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(Money Magazine) -- I was at a meeting with several financial planners recently where the hot topic was how to manage our clients' pain and anxiety in a bear market. The room was full of long faces. Clearly the popularity that we planners have enjoyed over the past five years has declined faster than our clients' portfolios.

A key aspect of our job as planners is to manage clients' expectations. It appeared to me that some at the meeting had used the recent bull market performance to set unrealistically high expectations. No wonder their clients are so upset.

I heard much discussion among planners about the "unusual behavior" of today's market and what to do during "uncertain times." In reality, what's going on now is pretty common; the recent five-year run of steady gains was the unusual time.

From this meeting it was clear to me that some financial advisers chase performance just as much as individual investors do. They load you up on stocks or funds that are doing well and tell you to sell when the tables start to turn. Often these planners are simply following your emotionally driven pleas.

But a financial planner should rein in your emotions, not react to them, and help you stay the course in both up and down markets.

Right now she should be telling you to stick with your target asset allocation and perhaps even buy equities to rebalance your mix. Had you done so for the past five years, you would have already sold some of your winning stocks and funds and probably wouldn't be feeling as much anxiety as the market goes down.

My advice

Talk to your adviser about how the stock market drop makes you feel. A good adviser will help you gain perspective on your recent losses. She might point out, for example, that only twice in the history of the U.S. stock market has it lost value over a 10-year period - and then only by very little.

Be wary of an adviser who recommends reducing your exposure to the stock market right now. Maybe she put you in a portfolio that took more risk than you needed to take and is now making a hasty correction. Or she might be trying to time the market, a strategy that consistently results in buying high and selling low. Either way, that's a sign that it's probably time to find yourself a new adviser.

The Mole is a certified financial planner and certified public accountant who - in the interest of fairness - thinks you should know what goes on behind the scenes in financial planning. Want to make contact? E-mail themole@moneymail.com. To top of page

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