Q: How did you keep clients from panicking?
A: The key was to call them before they called you.
Part of keeping clients calm was simply to work much harder at that time. We had meeting after meeting with clients. We doubled our work hours from seven or eight hours per day to 12 to 14 hours.
Being proactive was the key, as well as setting up the right expectations. We kept showing clients the benchmarks. For aggressive investors, we showed them the returns if they were 100% invested in the S&P 500. That way, the clients would know if they were doing better than the benchmark.
We had scared clients. I had clients in my office saying that The Wall Street Journal and CNBC were saying the [Dow Jones Industrial Average] will go down below 5,000. Some clients said they were scared and wanted to be out of the market right now. To calm them down, we told them that you can't time the market, but if you want to get out, you must sign a form taking responsibility for the decision. I told them I couldn't tell them when to get back into the market, because we don't time the market.
Less than 1% of our 900 clients signed that form, saying they wanted their money out of the market. That's the benefit of working with an adviser.
Managing partner, Zhang Financial
Battle Creek, Mich.
— As told to Bruce Kelly