How Financial Advisers are Helping Clients Through the Virus Crisis

Even for financial advisers who have lived through Black Monday in 1987, the dot-com bust and the global financial crisis of 2008, the coronavirus-induced market meltdown is uncharted territory.

On the front lines of investing, these advisers have been trying to guide their clients in fathoming the gut-wrenching market correction. For every panic-stricken retiree who’s seen their budget implode there are market timers poised to put their cash to work, they say.

Here’s how they’re shepherding clients through the crisis.

‘Is it Time to Buy?’

Susan Kaplan, registered investment adviser in Newton, Massachusetts. Her average customer account is $3.5 million with an average net worth of $10 million to $12 million.

“What I’ve been doing is holding people back,” she said. “They want to buy things — they have big amounts of cash.”

While she says prices may appear seductive she’s telling clients to wait for more certainty before buying. “I don’t think the volatility will be over until we’re finished with this virus,” she said.

‘Are We Close to the Bottom?’

Kristin McKenna, wealth adviser, Darrow Wealth Management in Boston. The firm runs about $200 million and the average client account is $1.6 million.

“Most folks have the same questions: Is there anything we should be doing? Are we close to the bottom? Should I still put money in? Most of our clients are comfortable staying the course and know that is the best thing they can do.”

She has been calling up clients to connect “on a human level,” she added. “Especially for those in the most impacted industries or individuals closer to retirement, the planning component becomes even more important.”

‘Is It Time to Sell?’

Leon LaBrecque, chief growth officer at Sequoia Financial Group in Akron, Ohio. The firm manages about $4.2 billion. The average account balance is about $1 million.

LaBrecque said almost half the calls he gets are from clients asking about opportunities to buy. The rest are concerned, though they’re not selling yet, he said. His advice? Hold tight — for now.

“The fear is different than the ’08 situation,” LaBrecque said. “We all have a wall of worry about the virus, our jobs, how we cope with social distancing, plus our money.”

‘Should I be Scared?’

Steve Morton runs the Captrust Financial Advisors office in Greensboro, North Carolina. Average accounts are about $2 million, almost all retirees or nearing retirement.

Morton says his clients set aside five years of money for income, typically $400,000, and hold the rest in actively managed stock and bond accounts.

“We’re selling bonds and buying stocks,” he says, adding that he tells clients they don’t need to worry because their income’s taken care of. “Certainly within five years we’re going to come up with a vaccine for this. That calms them down.”

Andrew Komarow, co-founder of Tenpath Financial Group in Farmington, Connecticut. The firm manages about $100 million for 100 families.

“Now people are actually starting to get a little scared,” he said. “The fear is real.” But he said his clients “know the best thing to do is nothing.”

— With assistance by John Gittelsohn

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