With the Donald Trump's inauguration looming, investors still aren't quite sure what to make of the new Commander in Chief.
A new study by Bankrate asked Americans whether the election results would produce a positive or negative impact on their personal finances. The answer was fairly murky: 28% thought it would affect their bottom line positively, 26% thought the result would be negative and 39% said it wouldn't affect them either way.
Great. Glad we had that solid year of shouting, turmoil and airing of grievances. So worth it.
"The discord our country has experienced over the past year continues," says Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride. "There is still disagreement - and no clear consensus - among Americans on whether the new administration will impact household finances, and if so, how."
Among certain pockets of those same Americans, however, opinions are a bit more cohesive. Baby Boomers, especially younger Boomers ages 52 to 61, told Bankrate that they think the Trump administration is going to work out fairly well for their finances, with the highest-income households sharing their optimism. When financial firm UBS surveyed wealthy investors before and after the election, the number of those investors feeling optimistic about Trump's prospects rose from 39% to 48%. The number who expected positive returns for the S&P 500 over the next six months rose from 25% to 53%, helped along by the stock market's performance in the interim.
The wealthiest investors overwhelmingly (90%) believe that D.C. needed some disruption, while 66% think Trump will affect the changes they'd like to see in health care, national security and the overall economy.
"Before the election, we saw many investors adopt a defensive stance, raising cash and moving away from stocks," says Paula Polito, client strategy officer of UBS Wealth Management Americas. "With the election behind us, many investors are looking ahead with a growing sense of optimism about the economy and the markets."
Again, that's many, but not all. Among those who told Bankrate they felt optimistic about the Trump administration, 35% think they'll pay less in taxes, 24% think their income will increase, 18% think the value of investments will rise, 9% think their expenses will decrease and 4% think all of the above will be true. However, Millennials, Generation X and the Silent Generation of older Americans -- and middle-class households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $70,000 a year -- expect to higher taxes (28%), higher expenses (25%), decreasing income (20%), and decreasing value of investments (11%). Oh, and there are 9% who think that all of the above will come to pass.
That explains some of the divisions in investment strategy since the election. Generally, before the election, UBS says that half of investors moved to protect their money. Nearly a third increased their cash holdings, while a quarter (25%) shifted to a more conservative asset allocation or cut back on spending (23%). Only 9% increased investments in the stock market. After Election Day, the number of investors who planned to shift to a more conservative allocation has dropped to 15%, while the number of investors planning to increase investments in the stock market nearly doubled to 17%. Overall, roughly 40% investors intend to make changes to their portfolios, mostly based on their political preferences.
However, 33% of Trump supporters planned to increase investments in the U.S. stock market (33%) and increase personal spending (25%). However, Hillary Clinton's supporters are raising cash (28%) and shifting to a more conservative allocation (27%). Of those investors holding cash for a buying opportunity, the majority (63%) are waiting for a market dip before reinvesting. Some 40% are waiting to see what Trump's policies look like
Each side of the aisle is viewing its investment -- and the world, for that matter, though a drastically different lens. UBS found that Trump's supporters think there will be fewer regulations (73% highly optimistic), a greater sense of national security (70%) and improved infrastructure (62%) during his presidency. One-third of all investors, including 46% of Trump supporters, expect their taxes to decrease with Trump as president. If taxes are lowered, many investors would increase investments (45%), spending (28%) and charitable donations (30%).
Clinton supporters are not only uncertain about what Trump will do in office (87% highly concerned), they believe the rest of the world will view America negatively as a result (82%) and that Trump's policies will lead to another recession (56%). However, they aren't alone in their concern. Among all UBS investors, there is fear that Trump will engage in personal attacks (60%), start another war (58%) and fail to accept criticism gracefully (46%).
The folks at RBC Wealth Management notes that those concerns have clouded the picture for their investors a bit. While RBC thinks Trump's agenda could "supersize" the gross domestic product and deliver low double-digit returns, there are still big question marks around consumer spending, wage growth, employment, biotech pharmaceuticals, banks infrastructure and energy.
The Federal Reserve's interest rate activity, oil prices and production, elections in Europe and volatility in oil-producing nations would all present worries for investors no matter who was in office. How President Trump reacts to all of those events will determine just how investors should proceed in 2017 and beyond.
"The dramatic leadership change in Washington will help shape U.S. equity market returns and sector leadership in early 2017 and possibly at other points throughout the year," said Janet Engels, director of RBC Wealth Management's Portfolio Advisory Group. "Investors need to consider that benefits from Trump's fiscal stimulus also come with new risks and the potential for heightened market volatility."