Stenstrom, who was president of the New York Chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) during the time of the attacks, has had an intimate view of the day's aftershocks.

One of the organizers of the pro bono services set up by the FPA after the attacks-which continue to operate to this day-Stenstrom has met with hundreds of people who were touched by the World Trade Center attacks. Seminars on financial and estate planning continue to attract 40 to 50 people apiece-people who survived the attacks, lost loved ones or who lost their jobs as a result.

This group of people are still hurting, she says, noting that 75% of those who died in the Twin Towers did not have wills. Beneficiaries continue to grieve. One of her clients, a couple, still is unable to cash the check they received after losing a child in the attack.

"Some of it is guilt and some of it is, if they cash the check, it's done-the person is dead," says Stenstrom, co-owner of Bourne Stenstrom Capital Management, which also has offices in Bedford Hills, N.Y., New Jersey and Maine.

Stenstrom's business also has changed-going from one that mainly served the affluent to one that devotes a day per week to pro bono work. Change has not been limited to the office, she says. Everyday life is different, reflected in the periodic terror alerts put out by government officials and the sight of machine-gun-toting police officers that greet her at Grand Central Station each morning.

"I think the terrorist alerts have added so much to the fear that people are still in a state of, 'What's going to happen next?'" she says. "I don't think 9-11 is going to leave us for a long time."

Three years after the attacks that shook the nation, many advisors agree that for them, their clients and probably the world in general, the day of September 11, 2001, has left a lasting imprint.

Bruce Primeau still remembers the client who pulled his $7 million portfolio out of the stock market completely, deciding there was too much uncertainty in the world to keep it any other form than cash.

"He was convinced after all he was reading that the sky was falling," says Primeau, vice president of wealth management services for Wade Financial Group in Minneapolis.

None of his other clients took such an extreme action, but that doesn't mean they weren't scared. Worries were so high that the firm addressed it by suggesting to clients that they pull back their equity positions by 20% to 40%, replacing the difference with fixed income. "We tried to get them not to act on emotions and ride this thing out," Primeau says.

The strategy largely worked. Most clients followed the advice and have since recovered what they lost immediately after the terrorist attacks.

That doesn't mean things are back to normal. The most frequently asked question in client meetings is still, "What happens if a terrorist attack comes?" he says.

Terrorism, Primeau says, has now topped inflation, deflation, interest rates and the unemployment rate as the chief economic worry of his clients. "Really what it's done is forced everyone to throw another factor into the pot," he says.

The tilt toward conservatism isn't limited to his clients. Primeau says his own outlook has changed. "I am a little bit more conservative," he says. "I was 100% stocks at the time and 35 years old. Now I think maybe there is something to this owning some bonds business."

Andy Berg, president of Homrich and Berg advisors in Atlanta, says the terrorist attack, compounded with the bear market and the corporate and Wall Street scandals of recent years, has sobered client expectations. "For the investment psyche of individuals it probably produced something positive, which is I think reduced expectations," he says. "I think people finally understand that the crazy returns that were earned in the late 90s were an anomaly."

Terrorism, however, is the main worry. After the federal government issued terror alerts in early August, stating that financial institutions in the New York City area and Washington, D.C., were targets, clients flinched. Berg says at least four clients called to ask if they should shift to a more conservative position. "I said, 'No, the threat is always out there and we think our asset allocation is sound. If we were to get more conservative, what would trigger us to get more aggressive all of a sudden?'"

The September 11 attacks were part of a series of catalysts that led Michael Haubrich to scrap the way he had been doing his financial advising and adopting a life-planning model. "Earlier in my career I was just focused on making the numbers bigger without a lot of meaning and purpose," says Haubrich, owner of Financial Service Group in Racine, Wis.

He says the terrorist attacks brought to a head an internal debate he was having about the value he was bringing to clients, and what role he should play in advancing not only their financial goals, but also life and career goals. Soon after the attacks, he put together a client advisory board to transition the firm to a life planning model.

The change resulted in a loss of between 5% and 10% of his clients. "I recognized this might be too intense for a number of clients. That was truly the case," Haubrich says. "But that was OK, because we couldn't be all things to everyone."

One of the changes he's noticed in clients is what he calls the "cocooning effect." More clients, he says, are focused on their primary residences-either through buying new ones or upgrading their existing ones.

This, he feels, is one of the reasons real estate values have shot up since 2001, causing a boom in the real estate investment market. "People are focusing on their own environment," he says. "There's less of a desire to go get that second home down South."

Haubrich has also noticed a trend in which older clients are outfitting their homes to prepare for the day they can't take care of themselves. Several senior citizen clients, he says, have made sure to equip their homes with access for the disabled and a spare room that can be used by a future caregiver.

There is concern about the stock market also, and future terrorist attacks. He tries to address the problem by asking clients if they expect another terrorist attack. Everyone answers yes, he says. "It's to explain the concept that the fear is priced into the market already," he says.

Not all advisors feel clients have changed significantly since September 11. Louis Stanasolovich, president and CEO of Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, says investors have had time to put things in perspective.

"From an investment standpoint, I don't think it has had that much effect on the market at all," he says. "For a while there, more people wanted to get their will done, but that was largely temporary."