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Riding The Wave
Ten smart things Washingtonians can do now with their money. By Kimberly Palmer
Comments () | Published January 1, 2010
Illustration by Michael Morgenstern.
With the stock market slowly recovering, many Washingtonians are getting back into the game. But the recent financial crisis hasn’t been forgotten—financial advisers say the recent downturn is shaping investors’ choices.

“They’re a little more cautious,” says Alexandra Armstrong of the DC financial-planning firm Armstrong, Fleming & Moore.

We asked advisers what their savviest clients are doing now with their money. Here are ten suggested moves.1. Get Back Into the Market

While the volatility of the past year led some investors to sit on spare funds, many are deciding it’s time to put them on the table.

“We are seeing a lot of cash coming into the market from real-estate sales and inheritances that took place over the last 18 months,” says Eric Hess, senior adviser at Alpha Financial Advisors in McLean.

That’s a good idea, says Hess, because he anticipates continued growth: “We’re encouraging people more strongly than ever to invest idle cash. We have seen the turn in the market.”

That doesn’t mean he suggests putting all of it into stocks. Hess recommends sticking with a traditionally diversified split, which for his clients typically means 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds. That way, he says, if the market has a bad week or quarter, investors aren’t overexposed.

Other advisers, still wary of potential dips ahead, urge clients to tread carefully.

“We’re not in smooth economic territory,” says Armstrong, pointing to the high unemployment rate and federal deficit. Her clients are maintaining higher-than-normal cash reserves; Armstrong generally recommends having one year’s worth of expenses.

2. Know Where Your Money Is

Gone are the days when investors would trust an adviser to manage their money without understanding where it’s going and why.

“We’ve noticed an increase in folks who have called us looking for a second opinion,” says Mary A. Malgoire, president of the Family Firm in Bethesda. “They say, ‘My brokerage account went down 40 percent—is that what happened with you guys?’ People are shopping around.”

Advisers also say that clients, perhaps wary of another Madoff scandal, are asking better questions and avoiding strategies that sound too complicated.

Top questions to ask a financial adviser include these: How does your fee structure work? What are the risks associated with the strategy you’re recommending? How have your clients done during the downturn?

Speaking with longtime clients or getting adviser recommendations from friends are also smart strategies.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 01/01/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles