All the red numbers on the stock market heat maps can be unsettling. You’ve seen this before and know it’s not time to panic. Still, you’re not paying all those fees to go it alone. Here are five things you should expect from your financial advisor in markets like this.
A phone call
We’re not talking about an email blast, blog note or Facebook post. A real-time, one-on-one phone call. All that other stuff is fine, but financial advisors have been calling their best clients over the past week, so if you don’t get a call -- then you know where you stand.
You might get a call from a member of your FA’s “team,” and that’s O.K. too, but in times like these, it’s important to hear from whoever was in charge and sitting across the table from you when you were being pitched to open an account. If you appreciate someone personally touching base with you when the market goes south –- and don’t get a call –- then it might be time to consider moving your business to someone that will make you a higher priority.
The decorum not to sell you anything
Your advisor shouldn’t be trying to sell you anything right now. If it’s such a good idea now, why didn’t you hear about it before the market plunged? And for the long-term investor, a good idea today will be a good idea six months from now.
An allocation review
Maybe you just had a year-end review to discuss tax-loss selling or to rebalance your investment mix. Doesn’t matter. What you want to know right now is, are your investments still properly positioned for the amount of risk you’re willing to take?
Just knowing that someone is watching your holdings and making sure they’re well positioned for this market –- and the next -- can give you peace of mind.
If your investments are way out of whack: over-weighted in a sector or asset class, or missing positions in markets of opportunity -- you’ve got to ask why. When things take a sharp turn –- up or down –- it’s not the time to find out that your portfolio is misallocated.
And here’s a true reality check: if you’ve insisted on maintaining some over- or under-weighted position and you’re paying the consequences now, own up to it. An FA without trading authority can only advise. If you’ve been ignoring the recommendations, commit to a plan to move to a more suitable investment mix when the time is right.
The wherewithal to skip the clichés and let you talk
When markets tank, the Wall Street buzzwords start flying. Advisors bring out the best jargon and clichés -- and that’s to be expected. Clichés are often born of truth; that’s why they’re clichés. But if you find yourself just listening to the same old song and dance, your advisor may be on auto pilot. Just telling every client the exact same thing.
You should be hearing a discussion about your particular holdings and goals. How the market relates to your specific situation should be the focus. And yes, in times like these, often the best thing to do is nothing. But you need to know that standing pat is part of a plan, not just a pat answer.
Most of all, a good advisor will let you do most of the talking.
The courtesy of setting up an appointment for another visit
Fine. You’ve been reassured that all is well, at least for now. Your advisor should take the next step and set an appointment for another discussion. Maybe in a month -- or next quarter, it all just depends on how time-critical your financial situation is. Perhaps you’ll wait for the next scheduled account review. Whenever it is, make sure you have a firm date and time to talk again, whether it’s on the phone or in person.
That will allow you time to see how things develop and how you feel about what’s going on -– beyond just today and this week or the next.
And finally, if you aren’t worried about getting a call from your advisor right now, and you’re not wringing your hands over the stock market, maybe you don’t even need a real-life financial advisor.