Global instability has spooked both planners and their clients.
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for the nation’s wealth managers — slipped again for August, falling more than two points to 51.5 as advisors shifted to cash and fixed-income allocations and retreated from equities.
Advisors, who were asked to focus on July activity, reported a sharp seven-point drop in perceived client risk tolerance; the component fell into negative territory for the first time since December. (RACI readings of less than 50 indicate declines, while readings of more than 50 indicate expansion.)
Index components showed almost identically matched moves away from higher equity allocations and toward fixed income. Advisors also reported a striking shift in allocations to cash, with the component increasing six points and moving into positive territory.
Several respondents highlighted growing international instability as a client concern. “World tensions continue to worry investors,” one respondent said.
Another suggested, however, that clients had become inured to ill tidings. “I believe that people have become so hardened against bad news it is no longer affecting their risk decisions on a macro basis,” the advisor said. “They believe it’s all or nothing, [and that] there is no safety/security to reach for.”
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.