It's difficult to imagine this scenario now: Last spring, a Tiburon CEO Summit in lower Manhattan featured a panel called "Ask the Consumers," where a group of model investors talked about how much they expected in annual investment performance from their financial advisors. All of them said they'd be happy with 8% or so. That number got a few chuckles from the audience of professionals.

That story seems morbidly funny now after September 2008, when Wall Street looks like an apocalyptic nightmare version of its former self-when all of the giant independent investment banks have either been folded, sold, bankrupted or restructured-undone with pens.

The market turmoil of 2008-the fire sale of Bear Stearns, the meltdown of Lehman Brothers, the metamorphosis of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley into regulated banks, and, most horribly, the erasure of some 45% of the value of the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes in just 12 months-would understandably make investors panicky, especially those who were just in sight of retirement, and want to move everything to cash at exactly the wrong time. That is, if they aren't simply in shock.

"It's starting to sink in that these long-run returns that people are expecting simply aren't materializing and it's going to take us a few years to get out of this hole," says Michael Brown, a partner at Seattle firm ClearPoint Financial, which manages retirement plans. "Everybody throughout the whole spectrum is starting to figure out that the returns that we've been running and counting on and running projections on have just simply not materialized.

It's not just a market dip. This appears to be the end of an era where Wall Street is not ever going to be the same for a long, long time. The profits that have been generated in the markets-all the gas has been taken out of the engine."

But one man's fear is another's opportunity, especially a financial advisor's opportunity as these panicking investors run to the phones. Many planners are on the phones with their clients already making pre-emptive calls to soothe the worried hearts of their clients.

Advisor Bedda D'Angelo of Fiduciary Solutions Inc. in Durham, N.C., has never really taken more than a couple of calls a day from new business prospects looking to kick the tires and ask her about her services. But on the week of September 19, she got 56 in one day. It tapered off after that, but she was still getting 10 or 12 a day by mid-October.

When clients do call advisors, they're generally asking "Why is this happening?" and "When do I get out?"

"My response to the first question is very complicated," says CFP Michael Kresh of M.D. Kresh Financial Services Inc. in Islandia, New York on Long Island. "We're only just beginning to understand everything that has gone wrong in the financial services industry-the lack of oversight, lack of regulation, high leverage, esoteric products. People in many positions who created these products didn't necessarily understand what it was they were creating. Clients ask why things are falling down so quickly and I said in many cases the situation has nothing to do with the intrinsic value anymore; it's the fact that companies are being forced to mark to market. And there is no market."

To explain the market to clients, he asks them to imagine what would happen if they were forced to sell their house in 24 hours: A home worth half a million dollars would suddenly plummet to about $100K. And that's just what's going on with the stock market.

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