Some fund company executives are predicting the bull market will come to a grinding halt in a few years.

There will be a "significant bear market in the next five years," said Jeffrey L. Shames, the chairman and chief executive of $103 billion-asset MFS Investment Management Inc. of Boston.

Mr. Shames was a panelist at a symposium last week held by the Forum for Investor Advice, an investor advocacy group.

Charles B. Johnson, the president and chief executive of San Mateo, Calif.-based Franklin Resources Inc., which manages $216 billion of assets, was also a panelist. One major challenge: teaching investors to have more realistic financial expectations, he said.

The average investor expects a 34% return per year in the next decade, which is "very unrealistic," Mr. Johnson said. Unless this impression is changed, "we're going to end up with a generation of very disappointed investors when the market turns."

But it's not all bad news. The fund business could get a boost if the government invests a portion of Social Security money in the stock market.

It's likely that some Social Security money will find its way into the equity market, Mr. Johnson said, but the government should not be the money manager.

Instead, he said, people should be given IRA-like accounts and invest a certain amount of their Social Security money themselves.

"If you politicize it, it will have very bad effects on the investment pool," Mr. Johnson said.

Perhaps some of the biggest opportunities in investment management will be in developing markets overseas.

Though the global mutual fund market is in its "embryonic stages," Mr. Johnson said, asset managers are continuing to explore international expansion.

Mr. Shames agreed, predicting that in 10 years U.S. asset management firms will manage more money outside the country than within it. But overseas expansion will not be painless. "A lot of people will lose a lot of money trying," Mr. Shames said.

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