How do you measure portfolio performance? Depends on whom you ask and what their time frame is. A recent survey by Seattle's Russell Investments found that more than half of financial advisors polled (53%) said they take a longer-term view and gauge performance in terms of progress toward meeting the client's investing goals. But advisors say their clients are fixated more on shorter-term concerns such as one-year returns (54%), their portfolio's absolute returns (49%) and portfolio volatility (41%).

Russell's latest Financial Professional Outlook survey comprises responses from nearly 600 advisors working at 141 national, regional and independent advisory firms. One of the prevailing themes of the survey is that advisors are much more optimistic about the financial markets than their clients. Seventy-eight percent of advisors said they were strongly optimistic about the markets over the next three years, but only 18% of them believed their clients felt the same.

"With the market volatility seen in 2011, it's not surprising that individual investors are fixated on one-year returns and portfolio volatility," said Frank Pape, director of consulting services for Russell's U.S. advisor business. "With a common understanding of the end goals in hand, advisors can develop plans that take a total portfolio perspective towards achieving the outcome--not just beating a benchmark or achieving a specific return."