When a closely watched yearly report predicted Wall Street bonuses for equities traders and senior management could drop by 30% in 2011, it naturally sparked questions about how affluent clients would cope with the downturn.

The annual compensation analysis, released earlier this month by compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates, made predictions based in part on public data from eight of the nation’s largest investment and commercial banks and 10 of the largest asset management firms, Johnson Associates said in a press release.

However, not all Wall Street professionals will see a pay cut. Advisors and private bankers working directly with high net worth clients will likely see bonuses that are flat to 5% higher, according to the report.

One likely knock-on effect of the lowered bonuses is that there will be less charitable giving, said Benjamin Pierce, president of the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program. The donor-advised fund has made $3.2 billion in grants since it was founded in 2007.

Pierce noted that the bonuses in Johnson Associates’ predictions are likely to be distributed in 2012. That will be an important year for tax planning purposes, when Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire.

“There will be a decrease in some giving,” Pierce said in a telephone interview. “A lot of that impact will be New York metro-area related, since most of the folks live in that area.”

Financial planners and independent advisors, however, say the best way for Americans to weather the current economic environment, regardless of where they are on the wealth spectrum, is to stick to the basics of everyday financial planning.

“Wall Street, like everyone else, is working harder to make less money,” Frank Nargentino, CFP, a financial advisor with JHS Capital Advisors said. “People who are working are fortunate to have jobs, and they [still] make less money.”

That means clients should keep six months worth of cash in the bank to cover living expenses, Nargentino said. When professionals suffer a job slowdown or loss, the knee-jerk reaction is to stop contributing to retirement savings accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s, he said. Clients need to resist that urge, especially as Americans are increasingly responsible for their own retirement planning decisions.

Insurance planning is also key, Nargentino said. Americans hit by the predicted bonus pullback or any other reduced compensation might be tempted to drop life or disability insurance policies.

“It is almost as important to pay those insurance premiums as it is to pay the mortgage,” Nargentino said. 


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