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2009: A Year of Reckoning

Among my predictions for 2008 was the subpoenaing of Eliot Spitzer's e-mails to prove his smear campaign against New York State Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. And we all know what happened to the disgraced former governor of New York.

Any predictions I would make for the coming year would only focus on the disastrous state of the markets, so let me espouse a wish list for the New Year, instead.

Timely Diversification. Mutual funds have been worried about losing assets to separately managed accounts and hedge funds because they allocate money to whatever is driving the market, rather than rigidly adhering to the investment principles of a fund's prospectus in a diversified portfolio divvied up into standard asset classes. Mutual funds' standard line, "Invest for the long term," has been sounding sadly hollow when many investors feel like they are sinking their money into a black hole.

A few fund companies, however, are wisely touting their money market and fixed income funds; Fidelity has even promoted FDIC-insured certificates of deposit. If you want to maintain investors' confidence and assets, now is the time to be honest and real.

Lower Fees. The market's decline has brought fees into clear focus. Retailers and manufacturers are slashing prices, and American consumers are beginning to respond. Fund companies that tout lower fees could build customer loyalty, as well.

Realistic Retirement Goals. A recent survey by Visa found that the average retirement account balance is $25,000. To some degree, the fault of that paltry sum is not savings-averse investors, but mutual fund companies that promote the idea one needs at least $1 million to retire without eventually dying impoverished. Perhaps well-paid fund executives have tunnel vision, because for most Americans, the idea of saving even $200,000 is a high figure. We need to build a comfortable, attainable dialogue with investors that promote realistic savings goals figures for different ages. If not, the customers we serve may throw up their hands and decide to live for today and be darned with tomorrow.

Regardless of the market and the economy in 2009, let's focus on helping investors continue to believe in the retirement dream and make them confident in getting there.

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