The springtime tax planning season appears to have lifted advisor spirits.
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — edged up to 55.4 in May as advisors reported higher fees and more retirement planning activity.
The survey, which asked respondents to focus on April activity, found advisors focused on retirement and tax planning activity as client tax liabilities grew. Advisors reported only minor portfolio shifts, with a rolling back of allocations to cash.
Several advisors noted a seasonal uptick in retirement plan contributions and other activity as the tax deadline approached: “The tax season did affect clients in various ways — such as last-minute IRA [and] SEP investments, taking cash to pay for taxes and increasing contributions for tax management for next year,” one said. Several advisors also cited increased demand for rollover IRAs.
Planners reported an increase in fees — in part because the rising stock market had boosted assets under management, as well as because of increased demand for their services. “Most clients that are near retiring want advice due to [the] low-interest-rate environment,” one planner noted, “so retirement business is better.”
Yet a few called out a longer-term squeeze. “Fees continue to decrease due to fee disclosure,” said one respondent. “Clients forget ... that fees are charged for a service.”
The index is composed of 10 factors — including asset allocations, investment product recommendations, economic and risk factors, taxes and planning fees — to track trends in wealth management business cycles. RACI readings of less than 50 indicate declines, while readings of more than 50 indicate expansion.