Advisers are trying to be reassuring as their clients’ risk tolerance plummets.
Worries brought on by a changing political, regulatory and economic climate have brought this month's Retirement Adviser Confidence Index — Financial Planning's monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — down 3.6 points to 47.9. The index is now in negative territory, reaching its lowest point since January.
Across the board, advisers reported clients were considerably more opposed to taking on risk. Clients' perceived risk tolerance level fell 9.3 points to 36.2.
Some advisers noted the increase in client worries may have been brought on by anxieties ahead of the election, while others speculated their clients were hesitant to put money toward retirement accounts without witnessing how the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule's might affect them. Others speculated on when the Fed would hike interest rates.
Clients shied away from equities, as allocation dropped 6.6 points to 50.5, still remaining in positive territory. Total dollar contributions received for retirement plans fell 4.8 points to 55.8
However, some advisers said they saw opportunity amid the uncertainty. "Given that retirement planning is a long-term business, short-term volatility should be used as a means of finding opportunistic entry points," wrote one adviser.
Some advisers said they felt less inclined to take on risk, because of uncertainty surrounding when the Fed will hike interest rates. "We all await the Fed's [announcement of] a higher federal funds rate. The resulting higher interest rates generally have an impact on the stock market," said one adviser. Others seemed unsure a hike would happen soon. "Will it finally happen?" asked one adviser.
A few advisers seemed unfazed by their clients' risk aversion, claiming that, political worries aside, seasonal anxiety about what many consider the beginning of tax season may be affecting their perception. "Between now and April, I expect the amount of retirement contributions to increase as clients prepare for tax season," said one adviser.
Many advisers grappled with how the implementation of the fiduciary rule would affect their retirement practices going forward. (After the election, implementation of the rule is less certain , as the president-elect said earlier he would halt the regulation.)
As one adviser wrote: "The DoL fiduciary rule will create a wave of big changes on investment offerings, platforms and solutions for clients, many of which are unfortunately going to hurt investors and limit their choices."
Another adviser said the rule would be good for business. "It's a net positive for my firm. I acquired a new client this week as a result," the adviser wrote.
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. — Maddy Perkins