You might ask your financial adviser, “Why did I lose so much money in my account?” If your adviser responds that “everyone” lost money, don’t believe it. That kind of answer is evasive and misleading. Regardless of what happened to the economy or the stock market, it’s never true that “everyone” lost money. Whether a particular investor loses money in a bad market, and how much money he or she loses, depends on what kinds of investments the investor owned and how the investor’s money was distributed among those different investments. The truth is, it’s possible for someone to earn a profit even when the overall market goes down, or to suffer a loss even when the market goes up.

The decisions made by your broker or investment adviser play a big part in determining whether you lose money in a down market and, if so, how much you lose. The broker’s most important job is to make choices and recommendations based on many factors unique to you – things like your age, education, and investment experience; your income and savings; your long and short term needs and goals; your willingness to place some or all of your money at risk; and your ability to withstand a loss that might result from that risk. In performing this job, your financial advisor is supposed to use all of this information to recommend investments and allocations that were suitable for you. If he or she did that correctly, you still might have lost some money, but you shouldn’t have suffered a devastating loss. If you did suffer such a loss, your broker may well be to blame.

You don’t have to know anything about investing to decide whether your adviser might be at fault. Just ask yourself some simple common sense questions. Did you lose money even though your advisor said you wouldn’t? Did you lose money even though you told your adviser you didn’t want to risk losing anything? Did you lose way more money than you thought you could lose, or more than you could afford to lose, or more than your broker or investment adviser said you could lose? Most important, were you honestly shocked and surprised by what happened with your investments?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” your adviser may be partially or primarily responsible for your losses. He or she might have failed to gather the right information about you, or may have picked the wrong kinds of investments, or concentrated too much of your money in too few investments, or may even have engaged in some kind of fraud or dishonesty.

Never settle for the excuse of a bad market or swallow a claim that everyone lost money. You need to dig deeper.