Alexandra Armstrong, a financial planner in Washington, has been fielding four or five calls a day from customers, especially those in retirement, worried about their investments. Her advice: Stay the course. "We think things will eventually get better," she says.
The biggest concern retirees have, she says, is that their income will go down. Armstrong tells them that while she can't promise them that companies won't cut their dividends—and indeed, some companies already have—it won't mean a material change in their income, which also comes from other sources such as money market funds.
So far, she says, no one has told her that they can't take the ups and downs and they want to pull their money out of the market, but some people are frozen with disbelief over what's been happening. And even though most of her clients are relatively affluent, she says they've adopted a more frugal attitude since the financial crisis began.
As for Armstrong herself, she sees being calm as part of her job, to counteract some of the hysteria in the media. She advised one woman to stop watching CNBC. Her other pearl of wisdom? "You haven't lost money until you sell something." Until then, it's just paper.