In running Advisor Products Inc. for over 12 years, I’ve seen some wild market cycles. There was the roaring bull market of the mid-1990s, when large-cap growth stocks led the way for so long and by so much that some professional investors declared small-cap value stocks forever dead. Then, there was the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, followed by the dot-com bust of 2000, and the post-9/11 bear market. Then came the Bush bull market, which gave way in recent months to a collapse of confidence in America’s financial institutions and triggered a global economic crisis.
While I much prefer the ups to the downs, I have to admit to gaining some special satisfaction from this most recent flight from equities. It’s perhaps borne of the maturity that comes to us all in our 50s. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been through so many market crises since I began covering Wall Street in the mid-1980s at The New York Daily News that this meltdown is somehow easier to bear. For whatever the reason, Advisor Products was better prepared than ever to help advisors manage the financial crisis.
I have to give some credit to my good friend, financial advisor Tom Connelly of Versant Capital Management. Tom scared the heck out of me last spring by telling me that there was about a 30% chance of a systemic problem occuring in the American economy. Tom is obviously a very smart guy and one of the more influential members of API’s Editorial Advisory Board. And when he told me in April 2008 that he was watching the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, I for the first time understood the serious nature of the subprime mortgage problem. I began assigning our writers stories warning of the possibility of systemic financial problems and a bear market. By late spring, we were publishing articles on advisor websites and in their newsletters warning of a weakening Fed balance sheet and tempering client expectations for portfolio returns.
When the subprime problem erupted into a full-blown financial crisis and stock market collapse in October, we were prepared. We were ready with articles for advisor newsletters and websites that would help advisors communicate with their clients honestly, calmly, intelligently, and in a timely manner. Some of the titles of articles included:
- How The Fed Played A Key Role In The Credit Crisis
- Lessons Of The Auction-Rate Securities Crisis
- How Will We Know When The Credit Crisis Is Over?
- Fed’s Actions Are Swift And Unprecedented
- In A Recession, Keep An Eye On Small-Cap Stocks
- Regulators Won’t Regain Confidence Without Total Truth
- SEC Concedes It Failed To Police Wall Street Properly
- After Wall Street Failures, A New Order
- Opportunities Amid The Wreckage
In early December, we expect the following articles to be back from FINRA review and released for use in our newsletters and websites:
- Investment Implications Of The Federal Bailout Plan
- Key Mechanisms Of The Federal Bailout Law
- How The Bailout Law Changes The AMT
- Lessons From The Wall Street Giants’ Fall
- Managing Cash Flow In Tight Times
- Don’t Make The Economy’s Crisis Your Crisis
- Retirement Plans Changing Due To Financial Crisis
- Your Referrals Are Appreciated Now More Than Ever
Like I said, I prefer bull markets to bear markets, but the work we’ve done to help advisors cope with the crisis has been incredibly fulfilling to me. You see, I had chosen a career in journalism because I wanted to help people. I wanted to do something to make the world better. But by the mid-1990s, when I was covering investing as senior writer at Worth, I had become cynical about my work. Covering personal finance for high-net-worth individuals had begun to make me feel like I was just making the world safe for wealthy people. By 1996, the year I founded Advisor Products, I had gotten married, started a family, and given up on elping people and making the world better. I wanted to just make a good living and take care of my family.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to feel like I am helping people again. If I can help you, Mr. and Mrs. Advisor, inform a retiree about how to avoid panicking in favor of planning, then I am one lucky guy. If we can together educate a pre-retired couple about how they can pull together college financing while still putting away enough to fund their retirement goals, then I can feel good about my work.
So, thanks. Thank you for putting me in a position where I can help you help your clients, thank you for making my company more successful than I had ever dreamed possible when I started it 12 years ago, and thank you for making my life more meaningful.