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    Eye on the Prize

    Iris Mack Dayoub, a triathlete, is highly energized to help her clients reach their potential.

    Laura Pavlenko Lutton, 08/26/2010

    Focus on the goal.

    Iris Mack Dayoub, a Savannah, Ga.-based advisor and fierce triathlete, insists on that for her clients and herself. There have been formidable distractions, be it 2008's market slide or high winds and extreme heat endured while competing in Hawaii's Ironman triathlon. But she does her best to tune out that kind of noise.

    "I've really worked hard to take the emphasis away from how the investments are performing and focus on the goals," Dayoub says. "We do a lot of work with clients to help them convey their goals to us."

    In fact, the website for Dayoub's $60 million Alpha Financial Management practice makes scant mention of her investment strategy and doesn't note her affiliation with the Dimensional Financial Advisors, a fund family that employs broad market diversification through a quantitative strategy that's somewhat akin to indexing. What's more evident is a wealth-management philosophy that Dayoub picked up from Ross Levin, author of The Wealth Management Index.

    "We want clients to take actions that align with their values," she says. "We ask them to visualize their ideal life."

    Reaching goals--be they financial or physical-- takes planning and practice, and Dayoub is well-versed at both. The 73-year-old five-time Ironman competitor is currently training for a national Olympic-distance triathlon set for September in Alabama by putting in grueling hours of swimming, biking, and running each week. Dayoub trains for her races with her husband, Michael, and she's hoping that her effort at nationals will qualify her for global competition.

    While Dayoub is preparing to perform under the stress of competition, she's also preparing her clients' portfolios for whatever the markets dish up. To protect her retired clients' portfolios from market risk, Dayoub calculates a client's cash needs over a typical year, doubles that figure, and sets the sum aside in one- and two-year bank certificates of deposit. That way, clients facing down markets can cover their expenses with cash rather than selling mutual fund investments and permanently dinging their nest eggs. This approach helped Dayoub's clients stay invested through 2008's downturn in relatively stock-heavy portfolios, which Dayoub thinks is the best hedge against inflation. The strategy put them in good position to recoup losses in 2009's rally.

    The Evolutionary Investor
    Dayoub's approach to investing has evolved over a career with roots that wind back to her youth, helping out in her mother's small grocery store. "I loved to help her do some planning," Dayoub says.

    Laura Pavlenko Lutton is an editorial director in Morningstar's fund research group. She would love to hear from you, but she can't give portfolio advice.