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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

What NOT to Do in a Bear Market

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As of this writing, the stock market is in turmoil. Major financial institutions are on the brink of collapse, and our country’s entire mortgage industry is gasping for air. It seems like the financial crises keep washing ashore like waves on a beach. While trail commissions and fees, based on assets under management, make these trying times tolerable for Mr. Advisor, Joe and June Client probably feel like their financial lives are going right down the toilet.

It’s funny how sensitive clients can be when they see their investment portfolios down 20 percent, 30 percent or more. Many will weather the storm with the proper handholding. Some, however, may be looking for a reason to jump ship. After all, you are the advisor who made them lose all this money. If they had kept it under their mattress like they wanted . . .

So, what can you, the savvy financial advisor, do to help clients navigate this mess? Beats me, but I do know a few things you shouldn’t do. Until we are all safely back in the snug horns of a bull market, here are a few tips to help keep you in your clients’ good graces.

1.Be careful what your clients see you doing. Try your best not to be seen:o Waxing your Lamborghini in the drivewayo Wearing your “I just got back from the French Riviera and all I got was this T-shirt” T-shirto In a Canyon Ranch Spa jogging suito Buffing and polishing your Rolexo Jogging the neighborhood with your staff of personal trainers

2. Be careful what your clients overhear you saying. Try not to be overheard:o Complaining about how much it costs to fill up your yachto Ordering a $3,500 glass of Macallan scotcho Bragging that you just bought a Labradoodle puppy for only $2,500o Complaining about your latest NetJets flighto Making fun of people who drive American cars

3. Be very careful how you articulate to your clients that you feel their pain. Try not to say things like:o You are worried you might have to start renting out one of your vacation homes.o Your hair plugs are going to have to wait until the economy comes back.o You’re cutting back your trip to the Turks and Caicos to only two weeks.o You might have to keep your Mercedes one more year before trading it in for the new one.

o You told your spouse she is going to have to choose between the implants or the tummy tuck because you can’t afford both.

If you can avoid these pitfalls, you stand a good chance of keeping your clients and their assets safely under your control. To do so, though, does require a great deal of self-control.

Oh, and one final suggestion . . .

4. Do not talk to or be seen with any other financial advisors until the market is on the rebound.Few people understand what a financial advisor is going through except other financial advisors. While it may feel good to commiserate with your buddy Mr. Broker, the temptation for one-upmanship is simply too great. Financial advisors are the only beasts in the jungle who inevitably will ask each other, “How much did you make last month?” That typically leads to a verbal sparring match involving vacations, exotic automobiles and additions to the house — none of which your clients are in a mood to hear about at the present time.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll continue to enjoy your fine wine, caviar and generally cushy lifestyle. Ignore just one, and it’s back to cheap beer, canned sardines and lumpy mattresses.

Once a mildly amusing comedian, Bill Miller now works as a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer; reach him at [email protected]


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