Retirement Investors React to Trump’s First Days

More than half of Americans believe the Trump administration will have an impact on their retirement savings strategies.

Just over a week since being sworn into office, President Donald Trump is already making headlines for signing a flurry of executive actions; but it remains less than clear how his approach to handling the economy and financial regulations will impact Americans’ nest eggs.

According to a new survey from Edward Jones, more than half (57%) of Americans believe the Trump Administration would impact their retirement savings income strategies. Nearly half (48%) believe the administration’s decisions will spike market volatility throughout the first quarter of 2017.

During Trump’s first official week in office, markets saw some notable changes including the S&P 500 breaking through a record high last Thursday—and subsequently retreating. The survey, which was conducted between January 19 and January 22, also found that 42% of respondents with investments believe Trump will positively impact their portfolios in the coming year. Twenty-seven percent believe the president’s policies will have a negative impact on market performance during 2017.

Considering a longer-term view of the Trump Administration’s effect on investments, 46% said they believe it would leave a positive impact on their assets down the line. Optimism levels varied throughout age groups with 52% of Baby Boomers expecting positive long-term returns. Forty-eight percent of Generation Xers and 39% of Millennials said the same. 

Against this backdrop, experts warn that Americans should approach long-term investments like retirement savings with caution during times of political uncertainty and increased market volatility.

“Regardless of what the perceived impact of the new administration is, it is important to focus on what you can control, and avoid making rash decisions based off emotion, especially where retirement planning is concerned,” says Scott Thomas, principal and retirement strategist for Edward Jones. “While we may experience near-term bouts of volatility, consulting with a financial adviser and focusing on a long-term savings and investment strategy can help prevent reactionary decision making and keep financial goals on track during a time of uncertainty.”

Survey results suggest the president’s pro-growth and anti-regulatory messaging may be comforting some investors, but it is important to note that many of Trump’s policies or proposals could be derailed or lead to unintended consequences. Reacting emotionally in this environment could clearly hurt retirement savings. 

NEXT: Navigating political uncertainty

“Stock prices, interest rates and the value of the U.S. dollar have all risen since the election due to optimism about expected pro-growth policies,” explains Kate Warne, principal and investment strategist for Edward Jones. “We think economic growth will improve modestly, and that's good news for investors. Some changes have happened quickly, but investors are likely to need patience as other initiatives could be delayed or disappoint, potentially increasing market volatility.”

Beyond potential market swings, the Trump Administration could impact other aspects of the retirement planning industry—most notably the Department of Labor’s conflict of interest rule. Scheduled to be implemented in April, this regulation seeks to extend fiduciary responsibility to virtually everyone providing investment advice to retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Trump’s DOL secretary pick Andrew Puzder is known for voicing a strong stance against government regulation. He ultimately would choose who runs the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which effectuates ERISA regulations. Thus the conventional wisdom is that the DOL rule is now doomed under Trump.

But whatever doubt the Trump Administration puts on DOL fiduciary rule implementation, it seems the industry is still moving toward a fiduciary-focused landscape due to changing consumer outlooks.

Speaking about the fiduciary rule at a Lockton Retirement Services-sponsored webinar on litigation and other industry topics, the firm’s head of legal and regulatory affairs, Samuel Henson, said: “We’ll probably see a delay or some changes. But the impact of that rule will not go away. The amount of time and effort that has already gone into compliance with that rule by financial services companies is going to have a lasting impact. A lot have already decided to become fiduciaries. The legacy of that rule will survive, but as it stands right now—I doubt it will be implemented.”

Still, Henson notes that it’s difficult to measure how some members of Trump’s cabinet will work with the establishment, simply because there is not much to draw from. He maintains that most questions/answers regarding Trump and the retirement services space are still speculation at this point.

“This is unprecedented in history. We have someone entering the executive office with zero elected experience,” Henson observes. “Here, we have an administration full of Washington outsiders. His common theme has been ‘We’re going to drain the swamp.’ What that means for our space, we don’t know.”

The Edward Jones survey gathered input from 1,015 respondents across age groups and income levels. It was conducted by ORC International’s Telephone CARAVAN Omnibus on behalf of Edward Jones. More information is available here.