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At Least Financial Crisis is Prompting Investors to Save, Turn to Advisers


Let's face it. The financial crisis is every bit as insidious as the most pessimistic prognosticators said it would be when the first cracks began appearing in the Bear Stearns hedge funds in the summer of 2007. And while President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package last week-hopefully a step in the right direction-there is no telling how long the crisis could continue.

Sure, our assets are down by about 40% over the past year, and many fund companies have trimmed their staffs by as much as 10%.

But amid all of this gloom, there are positive signs for the asset management and retirement savings industries. Our customers have not given up on the basic theory of investing, and, if anything, they are storing away more money that they will, hopefully invest with us once the market turns around.

Americans have not given up on the premise of investing. Their faith in money market funds was restored by the government offering insurance, and these funds have hit a record $4 trillion. They are learning to save more, spend less and live within their means. They are still hoping to retire some day and are working toward that goal, many now with the help of financial advisers or brokers.

Investors in 401(k) plans, largely, are not reallocating their portfolios out of equity funds and into cash-equivalent offerings. In fact, few have taken out hardship loans or are ratcheting down their savings rates. While a few are taking out hardship loans, they are a distinct minority.

All of this is an incredibe testimony to Americans' continued faith in the mutual fund industry.

And some fund companies are, wisely, speaking to investors' new conservatism, namely Putnam Investments with its target absolute-return funds and Fidelity with its promotion of its CDs, bond funds, annuities and budgeting recommendations.

Certainly, we can celebrate our investors' continued faith in the basic tenets of our business, and both praise and thank them for it.

Our customers are realistic about their more modest prospects for retirement. We owe it to them, especially those in retirement who the market has hurt the worst, to provide them with a more measured plan.

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