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Being There

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Like many advisors, Dennis O’Brien spent much of his time on Monday, September 30, the day that Congress failed to pass the financial rescue bill, calling clients and responding to phone calls and e-mails. “From 8:30 in the morning until 6 o’clock I was pretty much on the phone all day,” he recalls.

Some clients took it all in stride with a “Don’t worry about it, everything’s okay, we’ll make it” attitude.

“And then I have a couple of other clients who were worried about their 401(k)s. I had one client who sent me an e-mail saying his 401(k) is down 17.7% and he was concerned. I told him everything’s going to be okay, we’re just in this turbulent, volatile environment; in another year or two we’ll look back, just like we did with the boom and other events that have happened in the past, and we’ll just look back at it, like it never happened.”

O’Brien was never actually able to connect with the client that day, but left the message on voice mail urging him to call if he had any more questions or concerns. He never heard back. “I think that little bit of reassurance is probably all he needed.”

The lack of panic on one of the most troubling days in financial history is probably due to the time O’Brien spends providing clients with a basic financial education.

“I take a little extra time to give them a little education and explain how the markets work, what asset allocation is all about, how the different sectors move and why we should diversify across multiple sectors as well as multiple asset classes, including bonds,” he explains. “I have some clients with bond ladders who are actually up for the year. For some older clients I’ve built out some bond ladders, using only Treasuries, and they’re doing fine.”