Financial Q&A: Conversation with financial advisers critical in today's market tumult.

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Q: There have been questions about AG Edwards and Wachovia in the news. All my investments are with them. I've lost over $100,000 already. I know most people have lost money in today's market, but I'm retired and not bringing in an income except from my investments. I need to stop the bleeding now. I was thinking of shifting all of the tax-withheld stuff into CDs. I do not want to buy any more of those 10-year penalty contracts. Any suggestions?

V.C., via e-mail

A: The first two questions Eric Sheerin, a financial planner in Lenexa, Kan., has for you are: When was the last time you spoke with your adviser at either of the companies where your money is invested? How often do you meet with them each year?

If your advisers are not talking to you at least three times a year, in person, you may have the wrong advisers. Conversations with clients can be difficult in times like these, but they are critical.

Your tolerance for risk is not fixed and will change with your time horizon, market conditions, account balance, etc. More important, you are a person with values, goals, and dreams, and your advisers should help you based on those things. It is time to have a very candid conversation with the people who are supposed to be managing your money: reviewing the concerns you have about your portfolio and having them show you a step-by-step plan they have in place to protect your money from further market erosion.

"If they tell you they have no plan, or that you need to focus on the long term, run – don't walk – to the door," advises Mr. Sheerin. Find an adviser who will work with you to build a comprehensive plan to help you live the one life you have the best way you can.

Your concern over the 10-year penalty contracts is well founded and Sheerin recommends that you not purchase any more. Beyond that, the best advice he can give you is to get your hands on "Values Based Financial Planning" written by Bill Bachrach.

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