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Financial Planning Association celebrated its 26th symposium at the Country Club of Jackson

Symposium highlighted positive attitudes

To put it mildly, last year was not the best of times to be a financial planner.

The stock market plunged, with Americans absorbing losses that climbed into the trillions of dollars. Banks failed, grinding the credit market to a standstill. Small businesses couldn’t get loans to make payroll. People lost jobs at a record rate.

Folks who had targeted 2008 for retirement had no choice but to keep working because they had watched the bottom fall out of their 401(k).

The government started the intervention process, laying the groundwork for a plan to pump trillions into the economy.

With the bruises of 2008 lingering and 2009 emitting mixed signals, the Mississippi Chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) held its 26th-annual symposium Thursday at the Country Club of Jackson.

“2008 was one of the worst years in history,” said Jeremy Nelson, CTFA, Pinnacle Trust in Jackson, who serves as director of programs and education for FPA/Mississippi Chapter.

Last year was the continuation of a longer-term bear market that began when the economy took a brief, shallow dive starting in 2000, before recovering fairly quickly. Whether 2008 was the bottom of the barrel remains to be seen, Nelson said.

What is fairly certain now is that the guarantee that the stock market, when used wisely, does not allow the same certainty as far as return on investment as it once did.

“The assumption that you can get your money in stocks and make 10 percent a year, it’s not happening,” Nelson said.

The reality is, you go back 90 or 100 years, yes, you get those averages. But, we always go through periods of time where we go through longer-term bull markets and you do better than 10 percent for that period of time. Then, you go through longer term down trends, or bear markets, where you have below-trend returns. We’re in a longer-term down trend right now.”

The most recognizable and numerous casualty of the recession – whose official beginning is widely recognized as December 2007, just before the debacle of 2008 began — is the number of lost jobs in the U.S. The national unemployment rate is pushing 10 percent. In Mississippi, numbers for March showed 9.4 percent of Mississippians were unemployed.

Adding to the dearth of available jobs are those people who had planned to voluntarily end their careers, the retirees. That became impossible when their 401(k)s, the most common instrument of retirement savings, were shadows of what they were even in 2006. Even those who went ahead and called it a career haven’t been unaffected.

“For those people who have retired this millennium, it’s been difficult,” Nelson said.

The theme of the symposium (“Need Answers? We Got ‘Em! Financial Planning Post 2008”) is fitting. Nelson confirmed that clients have tons of questions that range from inquiring about the estimated length of the recession to whether they should pull out of the stock market all together.
“It’s very important that financial planners discuss all the risks that are out there with their clients, that their clients understand the strategies that they’re in,” Nelson said. “It’s also important that, instead of focusing on making money to provide for a lifestyle, you do a goals-based analysis and figure out what your clients are trying to achieve, and then come up with a strategy or a plan that is going to achieve their goals with the least amount of risk possible.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@msbusiness.com .

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