The election of Donald Trump ushered in a new political reality Tuesday night. Will it also require Americans to change their approach to saving and investing money for the future? We asked 10 members of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor network for their thoughts on what the election means for your financial planning.
What are you telling clients who ask what this election means for their investing strategy?
Chris Chen, wealth strategist at Insight Financial Strategies, Waltham, Massachusetts: In the long run the markets will be fine. The U.S. economy is the strongest in the world and will continue to hum along. In the short term, we may suffer volatility as we get to know our next president and see how he will shape his Cabinet and his policies.
Sam Farrington, financial advisor at Sound Mind Financial Planning, Omaha, Nebraska: Who gets elected president shouldn’t change your investing strategy. We focus on what we can control, which is saving consistently, decreasing debt and investing for the long term. It’s crucial to determine your appropriate risk tolerance before you start investing, so you can stick to your long-term game plan without jumping ship through the market cycles.
Susan Easthope, investment advisor and financial planner, Celaya Wealth Management, Coral Gables, Florida: Be patient. Campaign promises are just that. I would expect some volatility in certain markets affected by health care, energy and immigration policy changes, but long term I expect growth to continue. I am encouraging my clients to stay the course with their long-term investment plans.
Adam Harding, founder and lead advisor at Adam C. Harding CFP in Scottsdale, Arizona: During periods of heightened uncertainty I tell investors that they should focus their energy toward what they can control. From an investing perspective, they should understand and limit costs, take advantage of tax-optimization strategies (like loss harvesting and Roth IRA conversions), and implement a threshold-based rebalancing approach. Additionally, every investor is in charge of their own income statement and can control whether or not they’re able to spend less and save more during uncertain times.
Johanna Fox Turner, senior partner, Fox & Co. Wealth Management, Mayfield, Kentucky: Since Trump was nominated, clients have been asking me if they should be nervous if Trump was elected. I have told them that I believe the markets will look positively on a businessman as president. That said, I was fully prepared to make some significant Roth IRA conversions had I been wrong.
Steven Elwell, vice president at Level Financial Advisors, Amherst, New York: I’ve been telling clients that while the election has serious implications for Obamacare and other policy issues, as far as their investments go, they shouldn’t be making any major changes to our investment strategy. Elections tend to have short-term effects on the markets, and to allow your emotions, positive or negative, to dictate changes in your portfolio would be a serious mistake.
Marc Smith, portfolio manager, Red Wave Investments in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania: Some quarters or years are better than others, but investing is a long-term endeavor. Quality companies have thrived in a variety of different political climates and I expect that will continue going forward. I’m cautiously optimistic this administration will dial back some of its rhetoric and focus on creating a situation where companies and workers can thrive.
Ted Halpern, president of Halpern Financial in Ashburn, Virginia: Short-term volatility is always expected around elections, but long-term average annual returns are pretty similar whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House. Reduced taxes, cost-cutting and fewer regulations tend to help markets as well. However, while the executive and legislative branches of our government do create long-lasting policy changes, there are more influential factors in driving equity returns than the party composition of our government.
In short, a Trump presidency does not change our recommended strategy. We recommend focusing factors that are fully within investors’ control, such as 1) rebalancing, which is the only way to consistently increase your chances of buying low and selling high; 2) tax efficiency, meaning that portfolios of tax-deferred and after-tax accounts should be designed to ensure that investments are in the right place to limit taxes; and 3) low costs — look for funds that have no transaction fee and are within the lowest quartile of expense ratios.
Mark Struthers, financial planner, Sona Financial, Chanhassen, Minnesota: If your time horizon is long, I think you have to have faith in our political and economic system and that we have the proper checks and balances in place. If your time horizon is short, you might want to look at small tactical changes; for example, having to do with international exposure. The international markets would probably have the most negative impact if some of Trump’s protectionist policies were to come true. But if you have to make broad strategic changes, then your plan was wrong to start off with.
Are you recommending any changes (for example, for clients who wanted to retire early but now face a future without Obamacare)?
Delia Fernandez, president, Fernandez Financial Advisory, Los Alamitos, California: I’m recommending that clients review their financial plans and portfolios to see if they’re on track to meet their goals. Probably the clients who are most anxious are the ones closest to retirement, or who have already retired. Like a lot of investors, they still remember the pain of 2008 and don’t want to go through a big downturn. Some are thinking of getting out of the stock market completely and going to traditional savings accounts, which will definitely change their plans. Who can live on 1% interest on their savings? We need to do those projections so clients have real data to help them make a decision on their future.
Ted Halpern: No. A financial plan that could be derailed by a particular political outcome is not a good plan.
Sam Farrington: No changes because that would be speculation. We don’t know for sure what the next administration will actually be able to accomplish. Until something changes, we stick to our long-term plan.
Adam Harding: I urge clients to spend less time trying to forecast what type of policy they may have in the future, and to instead focus on making sure they are doing everything possible to prepare for a system without safety nets, then to be pleasantly surprised if accommodative policies are adopted. Changes in health care policy may create fear for those retiring, but fear is also a proven motivator that can be harnessed to help individuals build an even stronger financial plan, and it goes without saying that every retirement savings and investment plan is likely to be more successful when the individual works longer and saves more. Had the election moved in favor of Hillary Clinton I wouldn’t have advised clients with young children to not save for college due to the free education narrative. It’s important to understand the many potential outcomes, but to maximize their future options by taking control of their own savings and investment strategies.
Steven Elwell: I’m not recommending any current changes, but this is why having a plan and monitoring that plan is so important. Laws change all the time, and even though we can’t predict exactly what will change, we can review any changes that do happen and adjust the financial plan accordingly.
Mark Struthers: I think you have to set aside more funds for health care or take on less risk in your portfolio. The client is much like a CEO of their own company, Client Inc., and CEOs can’t allocate capital if they don’t know what costs or the environment is going to be like. Most on Wall Street did not support Clinton because they believed in her policies; they supported her because they could plan for her.
Any other key points you think are important for investors to know?
Johanna Fox Turner: There is no historical precedent for presidential elections to affect the stock market over the long term, and it has been encouraging to see the market rebound Wednesday from the huge dip in futures early that morning. Make sure you have an appropriately diversified portfolio and make use of quick dips (such as was seen with Brexit) for converting as much of your pretax retirement accounts to Roth IRAs as you can afford to.
Steven Elwell: One key takeaway from this election is that trying to predict the future, whether it be the results of an election, or how the markets react to those results, is a dangerous choice. I’ve heard many people say that if one candidate or the other won, the stock market would crash. Making any portfolio changes based on who you thought might win or how you thought the markets would react after the election would have probably proven to be a costly mistake. People should be very careful about letting their emotions distract them from a sound investment plan.
Susan Easthope: Many see Trump’s victory as a victory for America’s small businesses. Small businesses will most likely get relieved from Obamacare penalties and minimum-wage mandates. If the Trump administration provides tax cuts to small businesses, this should encourage spending and stimulate the economy.
Delia Fernandez: The economy is essentially sound; this is not another 2008. A lot of people who saw their investments crash in 2008 are ready to sell out when the market becomes volatile. We have to separate our politics from our portfolio. A lot of clients have contacted me because they’re unhappy or heartsick with the results of the election. That’s completely understandable; this election has been one of the more tumultuous in my memory. But there’s simply not enough data to tell us that we shouldn’t be investing for the long term.
Mark Struthers: Stay calm and have faith in our system. Worry about what you can control. Much like 2009, the good that comes out of this is that it reminds us that risk and cash flow matter. You can’t plan for everything, but failure to plan is planning to fail.