The adviser disappeared. Your calls weren't returned or your meetings were repeatedly canceled. Some advisers dodge difficult conversations with clients who have lost big bucks -- but that's when clients need their help most.
Your portfolio underperformed appropriate benchmarks over several years. If the stock portion of your portfolio performed roughly as well as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index during the five-year bull market, it should not have lost much more than the S&P 500 during the bear market. Use the Nasdaq Composite Index as your measuring stick if you have an aggressive portfolio of small-caps. And use an appropriate bond index, perhaps one of the Barclays Capital bond indices, to judge the fixed-income portion of your portfolio (visit http://ecommerce.barcap.com/indices).
Your portfolio was riskier than was appropriate for you. If you are retired or near retirement, or you told your adviser that you wanted a conservative portfolio, a significant portion of your money -- 30% or more -- should have been invested in bonds or cash. And no more than a few percent should have been in any one stock.
Your adviser offered no constructive advice as the market declined. If your adviser's only guidance during the rout was "just hang in there -- the market will turn the corner soon," there is no need to hang on to him. The financial world changed last year, and your adviser should have been suggesting ways in which your portfolio and financial plan should have changed in response.
Examples of good advice: Sell off some weak securities that lost money to reduce 2008 taxes... select stocks and sectors well-positioned for a rebound.
Bottom Line/Wealth interviewed Jack Waymire, cofounder of Paladin Registry, an Internet company that matches investors with financial advisers (www.paladinregistry.com). He was president of money management firm Lexington Capital Management for 21 years and is author of Who's Watching Your Money? The 17 Paladin Principles for Selecting a Financial Adviser (Wiley).