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Burned by the markets – how can they get back into investing?

A cry for help: She and her husband were burned in the last stock market crash and now have most of their money in savings accounts. "How," she asks, "can I get back into investments?"

This question is worth delving into for two reasons, the first being that it taps into the fears of all investors holding large amounts of cash out of fear that the stock markets are too dangerous. The second is the insights offered on the investment advice business, and its inability to address the worries of this particular high net worth investor.

The back story is that she's a health care professional who has saved a significant six-figure amount of money. About 25 per cent is in what she described in an e-mail as a low-growth mutual fund, and the rest is in savings accounts paying a low interest rate. This cautious approach was taken after a tough ride in the 2008 crash – "My husband and I were burnt by our investments (and investment advisors) … and have subsequently been too scared to go back into the stock market or even managed mutual funds."

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This reader has tried seeing a few advisory firms, and she found her large portfolio got their attention. However, she felt hustled by their approach. "When they find out how much money I have, they break out the 'black prestige folder' of services and then demand that I transfer all my money to that particular institution so they can manage it."

My suggestion: Keep looking for the right adviser. Such an adviser would:

- Talk at first about the client and her personal situation rather than about products.

- Look at how much risk the client must take on to reach her financial goals (if she saves aggressively, a conservative portfolio with a modest rate of return may do the job)

- Explain that the way to address fear of stocks is through diversification, not by hiding almost everything in a savings account

- Avoid pushing the sort of house products likely to be marketed in that 'black prestige folder' and instead consider the universe of stocks and funds.

- Be upfront about services and fees (with a portfolio close to seven figures, an advice fee of 1 per cent or slightly more seems reasonable).

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This reader is asking for help to get back into investments. A good adviser will provide it, and more.

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