As Activity Slows, Advisor Optimism Slips

Call it a tax season hangover. After three months in which stronger tax-related retirement activity buoyed the Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — the index slipped in June to 54.2. Advisors reported big declines in retirement planning activity, as well as increased allocations to bonds and cash.

The survey, which asked respondents to focus on May activity, showed big pullbacks in two retirement-related components: both the number of retirement products sold (which pulled back 8.2 points) and the dollar amount contributed to retirement plans (down 10.6 points). Both pulled the overall index downward.

Advisors also noted a disconnect between client sentiment and portfolio allocations: They reported increasing allocations to both cash and bonds, despite growing client interest in taking greater portfolio risk. “Clients who didn’t have high equity allocations in 2013 now have equity envy,” one respondent says.

Perceived risk tolerance also increased. “Clients seem to be edgy about wanting to take more risk — like they are missing out on something big,” another says. “We are actively having conversations about expectations and trying to build client emotional competence.”

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.

Retirement Advisor Confidence Index readings of less than 50 indicate declines, while readings of more than 50 indicate expansion. —Rachel F. Elson FP



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