Tax planning and market uncertainty left advisors treading water in April as they tried to gauge the sentiment of both the markets and their own clients.
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — stood pat at 54.9 in April, with a modest drop in equity allocations counterbalanced by slight increases in client risk tolerance and retirement planning activity.
Index factors showed only small shifts, with allocations backing off equities and edging up for cash and bonds. Retirement activity also increased leading up to Tax Day, with some advisors reporting that higher tax rates had driven more contributions to tax-advantaged plans.
Asked to focus on March activity, planners highlighted geopolitical concerns and worries about a sell-off. “Clients see the disconnect between market returns and economic performance and understand the current trend is unsustainable,” one respondent explained. “With the Fed tapering its support for financial markets, most clients agree that now is a good time to put greater emphasis on defensive investment positions.”
Another highlighted investors’ conflicting emotions: “Although clients are still bullish, many believe we are at the top of the market and a correction is imminent. Some clients want to take more risk while others want to rebalance to more conservative allocations.”
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. RACI readings of less than 50 indicate declines, while readings of more than 50 indicate expansion.