Next month, Americans (those that vote, in any event) will head to the polls to choose a new chief executive. The major candidates and their running mates are pledging to steward the nation through continued prosperity and fiscal health. To determine which candidate is best suited to run the nation's fiscal engine, TheStreet.com examined how the candidates handle their own financial house, and huddled with professional financial planners to hear their thoughts. The planners had some advice for the candidates on how to improve their portfolios. So this week, we're running the advisers' presidential portfolio makeovers of the major candidates, as well as the Republican and Democratic vice presidential contenders. Starting today with Democratic hopeful Al Gore, we'll pore over their finances and call it like we see it. If it doesn't help you decide whom you're voting for, it may help you adjust your own portfolio.
Estimated net worth: $1.95 million
Recommendation: First, pay off his line of credit. Then establish an emergency fund with three months worth of expenditures that he could easily access. Set up an allocated portfolio.
Asset allocation: "There really isn't much to invest. He needs to win the presidency, so he could afterward make a lot of money."
Adviser: Certified Financial Planner Benjamin Tobias
Top Stocks: Occidental Petroleum
First of all, let's consider the astonishing fact that Al Gore, silver hoe and all, doesn't even have enough of his own investible assets to qualify for a session with a wealth manager (though he may be able to tap into inherited funds -- more on that later).
To hear a financial planner talk, Gore's not so far removed from the po' folks he's trying to win over. (Drink twice next time you hear a reference to "the
ple, not the
"To give you an idea of his savings, his total taxable interest in 1999 was $1,267," says Benjamin Tobias, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant at
Tobias Financial Advisors
in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "He has got virtually nothing in the form of stocks. And virtually nothing in the form of savings."
Of course, this may mean that Gore has been doing a lot of planning to minimize his tax burden -- a top priority of most wealthy Americans. If so, he's doing a bang-up job.
Ever feel bad about your not-so-large retirement savings? Well, chew on this: The
vice president's IRA
is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000. You read those zeroes right. "That's less of an IRA than most Americans. This is terrible!" says Tobias. Granted, after a lifetime in public service, Gore's probably in line for a very respectable pension. But given his own minuscule savings, his passion for preserving
Social Security comes across as a tad less righteous.
More bad news on the solvency front: Gore appears to owe somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 on a line of credit from a bank. "That's significantly higher than the funds he has in his bank accounts," says Tobias, "and it's due on demand. So this means if the bank ever needs the money, technically they have the right to ask for it at any time."
Not that Gore's hurting, exactly, because his papa appears to have left him a very large sum of money. Gore has a remainder interest (Tobias assumes that means he's the beneficiary, though it's not exactly clear.) in a trust that includes
stock and cash, worth a little more than $815,000. (Again, this figure is derived from using averages -- the actual value could be more or less.) It's not clear whether Gore has access to the trust, however. Occidental's stock is off 4.7% this year.
"If he has control over the Occidental Petroleum stock -- I can't tell -- my suggestion would be to immediately consider liquidating the majority, if not all, of that stock and investing it in an allocated portfolio," says Tobias.
"Most likely his earnings in the future, whether he wins or loses this election, will be significantly higher than they have been in the past. He'll end up on the speaker's circuit, tapped for boards of directors. So while you don't want to bet on the future, if I were in his position, I'd be willing to get a little more aggressive in my portfolio."
For Gore, Tobias recommends a portfolio made up of 45% domestic large-caps, 30% international equities and 20% small-caps, with the balance in fixed-income investments. For now, the vice president's only stock appears to be the holding in his father's trust.
Gore does appear to have some Treasury bonds, but they're in trusts for his children. "There's not a dollar of dividend income on his tax returns," says Tobias, "and there's no evidence of him owning any municipal bonds."
Gore also owns: a house in Arlington, Va., listed at $375,000, a house in Tennessee listed at $175,000, a farm listed at $175,000 and an additional property listed at $75,000. His other assets include a bank account worth around $75,000 and a credit union account with less than $15,000. And he has a mineral lease valued at about $75,000.
owns a stake in a real-estate concern (in the form of an S Corporation, so-called because of its tax structure) worth between $100,000 and $250,000.
"Gore's got assets; he just doesn't have income," sums up Tobias. "It could be they've put all their money into this real-estate corporation of Tipper's. It's hard to tell. But next year, I'd love to give him a full-fledged financial-planning session, and I wouldn't even charge."
Whether he takes Tobias up on that depends on what Gore will be doing come Inauguration Day.
A few details on the specifics: Financial disclosure statements don't require candidates to list specific dollar amounts for their assets, but rather broad ranges (for example, candidates check boxes indicating that a given stock or mutual fund has a value of between $1,001 and $5,000; $15,001 to $50,000; $50,001 to $100,000; and so on).
Because of the wide ranges given, it's very difficult to pinpoint exact values. Our financial planners arrived at estimates of net worth and asset values by averaging between the high and low asset ranges as seen in a disclosure statement. So if a bank account has between $50,000 and $100,000, we'll describe it as worth $75,000.
While the actual figures may differ from our estimates, the information will give you a general idea of the candidates' assets. And until candidates volunteer the exact numbers themselves, it's the best we can do.
Also, we have chosen to exclude from our analysis assets that the candidates have placed in trusts for their children.
If you want to see the financial disclosure statements for yourself, go to
the Open Secrets Web site. Click on a candidate's name to go to the next page, then click on personal finances in the top left-hand gray box to get that statement.