With the election upon us and the first phase-in of the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule coming in April, advisers have found their own worries growing along with their clients’ concerns.
Uncertainty about the months ahead brought this month's Retirement Adviser Confidence Index — Financial Planning's monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — down 1.3 points to 51.5. Still, the index remains in positive territory.
Across the board, advisers noted their clients were significantly more risk-averse. Clients' perceived risk tolerance level fell 7.6 points and into negative territory at 45.5. Some advisers reported that election-concerned clients, who were holding cash, planned to keep it until all votes were cast.
"Those with cash positions have shown interest in maintaining that position through November," wrote one adviser.
Another adviser reported election worries affected their own decision-making on behalf of clients: "The election has me [acting] more conservative than usual. I have allocated more to cash now, to allocate back into equities slowly after the election."
The index reflected advisers' claims that clients were moving away from equities. Allocations to equities fell 3.7 points.
Some advisers felt the need to actively encourage clients to avoid making knee-jerk decisions based on election worries. "Elections often bring volatility and speculation," said one adviser. "Adjusting client expectations and focusing on their goals is key to achieving plan objectives."
While many clients were wrapped up in election worries, some advisers found themselves concerned with how the finalized DoL fiduciary rule would affect their practices. "We're feeling the pressure on compression of fees and concerns over the upcoming [rule]," said one adviser.
Another adviser noticed that the increased focus on retirement was affecting conversations with clients. "Retirement seems to be on a lot more people's minds, as more marketing is showing them how bad the retirement crisis is. We're focusing a lot more on no-cost education for employees, and we believe fees will continue to decrease due to the DoL rule."
Overall, advisers reported a 1.4 point drop in fees charged for retirement services.
The Retirement Adviser Confidence 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 below 50 indicate deteriorating business conditions, while readings over 50 indicate improvements.