Recent market turbulence has everyone feeling a bit nervous about the stock market -- everyone, that is, except financial advisors. Is that a good thing, or is it a sign that advisors aren't worth the money you pay them?
Pushing more risk
A recent survey from Russell Investments asked financial advisors whether they planned to recommend increasing or decreasing their clients' exposure to various asset classes. According to Russell, advisors are primarily suggesting a return to high-risk assets. Of those surveyed, 48% plan to increase allocations to emerging-market stocks, with almost as many boosting exposure to foreign stocks generally and to U.S. value stocks.
On the other hand, advisors are urging clients to decrease exposure to perceived "safe" investments. A whopping 54% plan to cut allocations to Treasury bonds, while 43% will reduce high-yield bond exposure and 39% expect to have less money in corporate bonds generally.
The survey was just the second installment of Russell's quarterly look, so unfortunately, we can't go back and see how pros felt this time last year. Looking at last quarter, though, the results look similar. Some subtle differences are interesting; the latest survey was taken during the market swoon in late April and early May, and more advisors reported adding to large-cap U.S. stock positions than during the first quarter.
Smart move or suicide?
In general, though, the theme advisors repeatedly sounded was that clients needed to get more aggressive to increase their chances of reaching financial goals. Nearly half said their clients either didn't have enough money, or weren't saving enough of what they do have.
In that light, it's easy to understand how advisors are in a tough position. On one hand, they may not feel all that bullish about the market at this particular time. Yet focusing on the long run, they realize that Treasuries and insured bank CDs aren't going to get their clients where they need to be.
Understanding true risk
What many advisors struggle with is explaining different kinds of risk to their clients. As an example, consider the top pick among advisors: emerging markets. You can look at historical returns of emerging-market stocks and see that they're more volatile than U.S. markets. But with both China and India slated to see their economies grow at an 8% clip or better through 2011, investing in dominant companies in those markets is arguably less risky than dealing with more sluggish economies.
In China, for instance, China Mobile
Meanwhile, in India, banks such as HDFC
In comparison with emerging markets, things such as bank CDs may seem tame. But what's the most tame about them are their returns, which simply aren't high enough to meet most investors' long-term needs. Owning them isn't just risky; often, it ensures that you won't reach your goals.
You get what you need
Even in slower economies like the U.S., there are good reasons for owning stocks over bonds. At just more than 4% for a 30-year Treasury bond, yields on fixed-income securities don't compensate you very well for the long-term risk of higher interest rates. In contrast, both Merck
Smart financial advisors aren't crazy to be urging clients to take market risk right now. Often, the greater risk comes from not being aggressive enough with your investments. If you haven't been able to muster the courage to get back into the stock market, then talking with a financial advisor might give you the push you need to get your finances back on track.
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger knew a lot of nutty financial advisors back in the day. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. CNOOC is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. Statoil is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended writing puts on Exelon, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool owns shares of China Mobile. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Sometimes the Fool's disclosure policy feels like a nut; sometimes it don't.