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Election jitters have advisers seeking liquidity for retirement plans

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Advisers are increasingly convinced the presidential election will trigger considerable market volatility, especially in the short term, irrespective of the outcome.

“Preparing our clients mentally and taking income-stabilizing precautions for our clients in retirement is a priority now,” one planner said in response to Financial Planning’s latest Retirement Adviser Confidence Index, which asked 320 advisers: “How will the outcome of the U.S. election impact retirement planning, and what actions are you taking now?”

To hedge against expected domestic political upheaval, wealth managers report increasing cash allocations and liquid assets to protect client accounts. Some are selling equities to do so while others are halting new investments altogether.

“Generally speaking we are building larger cash positions as the equity markets test all-time highs and we have such uncertainty regarding our future leader,” one adviser said. Another is simply letting interest and dividends accumulate to cash.

Several advisers predicting a victory for the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are already preparing clients for heavier taxation and possible cutbacks in Social Security benefits. One planner is focusing on Roth IRAs and another is adjusting estate planning strategies to lower clients’ tax exposure.

“I am increasing the attention level of my clients to tax-advantaged investing, including an increase in exposure to short-to-intermediate-term munis,” one wealth manager said.

Some advisers are focusing their concern on the Department of Labor fiduciary rule. They believe it will hurt clients and the retirement planning industry much more than any other policy. One planner fears that less wealthy clients will be left without advisers. Indeed, another adviser is giving up on smaller accounts, according to comments in the survey.

These planners believe a Trump presidency may be the better outcome on this issue, betting that he would rescind the regulation.

According to one wealth manager: “Clinton will allow the DoL rule to go through and cause many unforeseen problems. Trump may stop the DoL rule and things may remain sane.”

Although a number of advisers are crafting strategies based on either candidate as the election draws nearer, many are still struggling to make decisions.

“Policies of each candidate can be drastically different affecting clients in different income categories differently,” one planner said. As a result, the planner is simply educating clients about each candidate’s agenda and what to expect.

Other advisers are echoing the unprecedented need to address the election this year and calm clients. “Our job is to help them stay the course and save them from themselves,” one planner advises.

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