If clients of financial planners are a barometer, people are worried about the future. “I’ve gotten the question a couple times, ‘Colby, should I stock up on weapons and ammunition?’ ” said Colby Winslow, a personal wealth manager with Creative Planning in Orlando, Fla.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, financial planners have been getting some tough questions from very troubled clients.
“There’s a raw emotion that has been brought to the forefront because of this pandemic that’s not going away,” said John West of Spraker Wealth Management. “It has caused more candid conversations with people, centered primarily around politics.”
A financial advisor for more than 10 years, West said his firm came into 2020 expecting volatility and anxious clients, even before the pandemic hit in March.
“There’s a lot of questions I get related to be who is going to be president for the next four years,” he said.
But this year, coronavirus has preempted the typical election concerns, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 10,000 points in March.
“When you look at historic bear markets, this was a pretty quick one,” Winslow, 39, said.
As the stock market fell, some clients also took an apocalyptic view. “I got questions like, ‘Should I sell it and put it all under the mattress?’ ” Winslow said. “ ‘Should I be invested in foreign currencies because the dollar is about to deteriorate?’
“Some clients had the impression the world was coming to end and therefore the stock market just doesn’t make a difference. So (they wondered) should they be selling everything and hoarding in their bunker, so to speak.”
The market has since turned around and last month finished erasing the losses of early in the year, though certain segments remain weak. “You see what is so important to our Central Florida economy — travel and leisure, hotels, airlines — that are just decimated,” West said.
With the panic mostly over in the markets, thoughts have turned once again to election politics.
West, 39, said the concerns aren’t limited to one side of the political spectrum or another.
“It’s both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I think that that’s common every four years. It’s part of the process that we go through. But I think that it’s heightened because of the world we’re in right now.”
Which isn’t to say that everyone has a bleak outlook. “Not everybody is terrified,” West said. “If you support Trump and think he’s going to win reelection, for example, you’re feeling like the market is OK.”
Winslow reminds clients that whoever the president rarely dictates market performance. “Markets aren’t as concerned about who sits in the White House,” he said. “Markets aren’t red or blue, they’re green.”
Jennifer Miller of Orlando says that she always thinks about her finances in the long term. A client with the same financial planner for more than 25 years, Miller said she wasn’t worried.
“I’ve been around the sun a few times and I know it’s a pendulum and things would swing back,” she said.
Miller, 58, also noted that it helped that her planner reached out to her proactively when the market downturn began.
“She calls me,” the former bookstore owner said. “If I even think about (my finances), I’m hearing from her.”
The trick, according to Winslow, is to avoid making emotional decisions. He said some clients haven’t recovered after selling early.
“It was an emotional decision,” he said. “You’ve had more emotional conversations.”
He recognizes that this year has been particularly hard on people’s financial psyches.
“Rather than having an election period that’s lasting three or four months, (coronavirus) started back in February,” he said. “I think a lot of nerves are rubbed raw.”
Miller notes that’s why she’s thankful to have a planner in the first place.
“I’ve come to rely on her so much, I know that if we were losing and losing, she would have been on the phone,” she said. “That’s the thing about a financial planner. They need to be looking out for you. That’s what you have them.”
©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)