As more clients are confronted with shrinking retirement portfolios, layoffs and hardship getting bank loans for their business and personal needs, accountants are being asked for advice on how to survive through lean times.

The spreading crisis in the credit, mortgage and banking markets is causing repercussions in many people’s lives, both at home and at work. While the Dow takes investors for wild rollercoaster rides day after day, there is increasing uncertainty about what is going to come next. The federal government has been steadily expanding its rescue plan for financial firms and banks, but there has been little concrete action taken so far on bailing out families and small businesses, even though proposals from the presidential candidates and various pundits abound.

So what should accountants and financial advisors tell their clients when there is so much uncertainty out there about the best course of action to follow? As in the days of the Great Depression, some people are now seriously considering withdrawing their money from the bank and hiding it in their mattresses. And reports of distraught people driven to the brink by job losses and financial reverses have also emerged in recent days, including one former PricewaterhouseCoopers financial analyst who killed five members of his family and then shot himself.

Clients need reassurance in times like these when optimism seems in short supply, even on days when the Dow suddenly gets a temporary lift. The American Institute of CPAs’ Private Companies Practice Section has created a useful sample letter that practitioners can send to their clients with advice on coping with the credit crisis. The No. 1 suggestion is “don’t panic.” That’s good advice for anyone these days.

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