Financial survival secrets from the experts

November 7, 2008

Medical Economics' 150 Best Financial Advisers for Doctors share quick tips for weathering today's economic turmoil.


Looking for advice to help you wade through today’s volatile markets? We asked some of Medical Economics’ 150 Best Financial Advisers for Doctors to share their expertise for weathering the economic turmoil. Here are their survival secrets.

The value of planning
“The current market just reemphasizes the need for a well-structured financial plan.  Think of it like preventive healthcare.  It keeps you from having a major issue, and when something bad does happen, the recovery is a lot easier.”
- William Leuby, JD, CPA, CFP
Hamilton Capital Management
Columbus, Ohio

“Periods of market turmoil undoubtedly test the value of the client-advisor relationship.  That strength is built upon trust, open communication and clarity of vision.  Your advisor’s responsibility is to create congruency between your actions and your values. Now, more than ever, work closely with your advisor to establish clear objectives and to find current opportunities that maximize your chances for success as there are opportunities in all market conditions.”
- Nathan Straus, CFP
Commonwealth Financial Group
Daniel Island, South Carolina

“You should have the discipline to stick with your long-term saving and investment plans during both market ups and downs. Of course, that assumes you have a well-formulated, diversified strategy suited to your long-term need for return, balanced against your need, ability, and willingness to take risk. Investing is risky business. The rewards go to the patient investor.”
- Sherman Doll, CPA, PFS
Capital Performance Advisors
Walnut Creek, California

 

Think long term
“Instead of speculating with retirement assets and timing the market, stay invested for the long haul. Historically the market recovers in spurts - sometimes missing a few days can make a marked difference in your returns. Continue to save in your retirement accounts and dollar-cost-average into reliable, proven funds.”
- Kent Wilson, CFP, CPA
Wilson Financial Advisors
Salt Lake City, Utah

“When markets are in freefall and headlines are dominated by prognosticators calling for Armageddon, it is difficult to maintain focus on long-term objectives.  Look for opportunities in areas of the market that have come down in sympathy with the market but are not tied to credit markets, such as health care.  These stocks represent historic opportunities.”
- Bryan Place, CFP, CLU, ChFC
Place Financial Advisors
Farmington, Connecticut

“It is time – not timing that builds wealth. The current market drop is a great buying opportunity for a long- term investor. This bear market is the next floor for the bull market that will follow and you need to be invested to reap the returns when the market heads north.”
- William Howard Jr., CFP, ChFC
William Howard & Co.
Memphis, Tennessee

“The opportunities that have been created for those who remain disciplined in their approach are staggering. Remember: More millionaires were made during the Great Depression than any other era in U.S. history.”
- Timothy Walla, CFP
Walla Street Wealth Management
Overland Park, Kansas

“For your long-term money, there is just as much risk in being out of the market when it goes up as being in the market when it goes down. The two common mistakes are having your short-term money invested too aggressively and having your long-term money invested too conservatively.”
- Todd Bramson, CFP, ChFC, CLU, CFS
North Star Resource Group
Madison, Wisconsin

"Volatility and correction are inherent throughout market cycles. P/E ratios are in many cases at historic lows and may well represent buying opportunities. Remember most of you are in it for the “long haul”. Diversify your holdings appropriately and focus on your time horizon. Do not become preoccupied with short-term performance."
- Ronald Dreese, CPS, PFS, MPA
Abundance Wealth Counselors
State College, Pennsylvania

Hunt for bargains
“My advice to clients with a 5-year or longer investing time horizon is to keep steady and stay the course; increase your contribution to your retirement or 401(k) plan over the next six to 12 months; make your 2008 IRA contribution now, even though you have until April 15, 2009; and do what Warren Buffet does - "buy low and sell high" and not the other way around. This holiday season, look for the "Day-After-Thanksgiving" bargain-basement sale on Wall Street instead of Macys and Saks 5th Avenue!”
- Edward Ramsey, CFP, CPA, MBA, PFS
Centerpiece Financial Planning
Greenbelt, Maryland

“Mark Twain said, ‘History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.’ I believe that applies to what we’re experiencing now in the stock market. While we’ve never seen exactly this set of circumstances before, the proper course, based on past experience, is to take advantage of lower prices for stocks and rebalance portfolios.”
- Joel Greenwald, MD, CFP
Sterling Retirement Resources
St. Louis Park, Minnesota

“Investment real estate can now be bought with positive cash flow. In 2005, the appreciation over the previous four years made it nearly impossible to buy real estate where rents exceeded expenses. With prices plummeting on real estate right now, make your offers using an 8 to 10 percent cap rate.”  
- Robert "Buzz" Law, CFP
Creative Financial Group
Atlanta, Georgia

“Now more than ever it is important to make sure your short-term needs are taken care of through conservative investments. Once you are comfortable that you are in good shape in the near term, use market declines to your advantage. Buying low is a great way to enhance your long-term financial security.”
- Elaine Bedel, CFP, MBA
Bedel Financial ConsultingIndianapolis, Indiana

“I agree with Warren Buffett: Now is the time to buy U.S. stocks. But make sure your risk tolerance is up to the challenge, because there will be more wild volatility. Heed the advice of John Maynard Keynes: ‘The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.’”
- David Sebastian, CFP, CRPC, CRPS
The Physician’s Wealth Management Group
Summit, New Jersey

“The S&P 500 is approaching attractive valuation levels (based on price-to-peak earnings multiples) not seen since the early 1990s. This doesn’t mean that you should invest all of your cash immediately, because short-term bear market rallies can send a false signal that the worst is over when it is not.”
- Jim Holtzman, CFP, CPA
Legend Financial Advisors
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pay attention to allocation
“Have you ever wondered how investors really fared during the Great Depression?  Interestingly enough, a portfolio with 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in Treasury bills (rebalanced annually) between 1929 and 1938 outperformed a portfolio of 100 percent Treasury bills.  If balance made sense during the Great Depression, it certainly does today!”
- Pat Beaird, CPA, PFS
BHCO Capital Management
Dallas, Texas 

“Current economic conditions are trying, but investors are overreacting. Since virtually every investment but U.S. government bonds has been debased, it stands to reason that purchasing or maintaining a balanced portfolio of mutual funds with a strong emphasis on quality presents unusual opportunities for people with the vision to look beyond the current period.”
- Lewis Altfest, MBA, CFP, CFA, CPA/PFS
L.J. Altfest & Co.
New York, New York

“Any new money coming in should be kept on the sidelines until a positive uptrend can be established. Tactical asset allocation and proper security and sector selection is critical in this type of market. Strategic asset allocation traditionally applied by most advisors just doesn’t cut it for our clients in these types of markets. You may do OK relative to the markets with this type of strategy, but when the markets are down 40 percent and your clients are down 30 percent believe me, they’re not going to be happy.”
- Michael Leonetti, CFP
Leonetti & Associates
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

“Our research shows that during 1990 to 2007, the S&P 500 returned 9.5 percent.  If you had been out of the market for the 10 best days each year, your return drops to -11.5 percent. This and academic studies demonstrate that it is extremely unlikely that timing your investments entirely in or out of the stock market will be effective. However, in a flexible portfolio using risk management techniques, you can tilt your portfolio to lower correlated assets such as commodities or cash to mitigate market volatility.” 
- Robert Cheney, CFA, CFP
Advanced Equities Wealth Management
Portola Valley, California

"If physicians are experiencing stress in today's market, they may have an inappropriate asset allocation with the wrong advisor. To meet their specialized needs and unique concerns, physicians need to retain a strategic wealth manager who acts as their chief personal financial officer and leave the worrying to him or her."
- Robert Hockett, CFP
Cambridge Southern Financial Advisors
Atlanta, Georgia

 

Take advantage of losses
“Regardless of how one might invest in this volatile market, one should seriously consider taking advantage of harvesting capital losses and applying them to any current or future gains when the market recovers. In order to not be caught out of the market in case it comes back quickly, immediately reinvest in similar yet different securities, keeping in mind wash sale rules.”
- Alan Goldfarb, MBA, CFP
Weaver and Tidwell Financial Advisors
Dallas, Texas

“Be an adviser, not a trader. Take advantage of the current situation to realize losses in your taxable portfolio that can offset future gains. Reinvest the proceeds from your security sales to sufficiently diversify your portfolio without exposing you to more risk than you can stomach.”
- Kathy Stepp, CPA, CFP
Stepp & Rothwell
Overland Park, Kansas

 

Seek out quality
“In challenging market times, quality and yield are always important.  While no one needs to radically alter their long-term financial plan, a few minor adjustments can ease the anxiety a bit.  First, have adequate cash reserves.  Second, reevaluate your holdings with a view toward quality. Finally, I recommend patience and minimal television watching.”
- Jana Shoulders, CPA
Adams Hall Asset Management LLC
Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

Pay down debts
“We expect short-term deflation and as such, we recommend readers repay debt where at all possible including student loans, mortgages, etc. However, in the long term, especially with the Fed and Treasury favoring inflation, we expect inflation and think that Treasury Inflation Protected Securities are a good buy right now.”
- Janet Briaud, CFP
Briaud Financial Advisors
Bryan, Texas

 

Other sources of “wealth”
“Always focus on your values, not the value of your toys. True wealth is our family, our friends, our health, and our faith. Our financial wealth may have depreciated in value, but it will surely recover as rationality returns to the marketplace. Focus on your positive true wealth.” 
- T. Craig Lewis III, CPA, CFP
Lewis Financial Group
Shreveport, Louisiana

“Focus your energy on what you can control – your business.  Put your account statements away and concentrate on making your business as efficient and profitable as possible. A well constructed investment portfolio will recover, but your practice is the single-most important driver of your long-term wealth.”
- Stefan Prvanov, CFP
Blankinship & Foster
Solana Beach, California

“Everyone has an accumulation strategy. The key to a SANE (Sleep At Night Easily) financial future is to have a SANE exit strategy -- an exit strategy that allows one to spend, use, and enjoy their money with no risk of outliving one’s money.  If one has a SANE exit strategy, one will be happy.”
- Gerald Michael Materne
Niceville, Florida