From the February 2009 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Losing May Mean a Move to Cash

"The current financial crisis has had a dramatic impact on America's millionaires, reducing their net worth substantially and threatening their ability to maintain both lifestyles and retirement plans," said Catherine McBreen, managing director of Spectrem Group, in announcing the results to Spectrem's latest report, Attitudes of Affluent Investors on Surviving the Economic Crisis. According to the study, which is based on the online polling of 750 households with over $1 million of net worth conducted in November 2008, most millionaire households feel they have lost 20%-30% of their overall net worth, with some individuals believing they have lost more than 40%. This is a significant issue for these households, whose average age is 57, especially since Spectrem believes that the individuals whose plans are affected most significantly by the economic crisis are those individuals who are within five to 10 years of retirement, a conclusion backed up by study participants.

With baby boomers realizing that they may have a difficult time maintaining their existing standard of living during retirement due to the significant losses to their portfolios, "most are moving to cash-based investments," McBreen said in a conference call reviewing the study results in early January. In fact, more than 50% of baby boomers plan on moving their portfolios to more cash, although it is not the best way to grow a portfolio. "Safety, however, is an important issue for these individuals," the report reads. The study also reveals that 45% of individuals within five to10 years of retirement plan to postpone their retirement, while 38% of those within five years of retirement will postpone theirs.

As part of the report, Spectrem offers tips for advisors during this financial crisis. Besides the usual advice, such as returning phone calls, and proactively contacting clients, Spectrem recommends advisors make sure that investors have access to their balances 24/7. More than 30% of investors are checking their balances more frequently since the beginning of the financial crisis, according to the report. Secondly, giving clients insights and information they cannot find on the Web is another way to service clients. This includes offering up the experiences you have had during your career, doing the extra research on companies that they may not know or have the time to find out about, and discussing with them the tax consequences or other impact a decision may have on their portfolio.

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