Republicans and Democrats have been squabbling over what to do about the fiscal cliff, and how to deal with the nation’s finances. Whether there should be higher taxes, or reduced spending, or both, is an issue. So what does this mean for investors and financial advisors? OnWallStreet.com takes a look at the issue.

There is the likelihood that capital gains taxes may be increased, as well as an increase in dividend taxes. Without a deal, capital gains taxes will go up to 20%, and dividend taxes will be treated like regular income. With a deal, the taxes still could go up. In addition, a 3.8% Medicare surcharge will also be included.

According to a survey by the Financial Services Institute, financial advisors are confident that a deal would be made to resolve the fiscal cliff issue. Seventy-nine percent say that they think a fiscal cliff deal will be made by the end of the year.

In addition, 70% of the advisors say that they opposed raising taxes on the rich, and 68% say that higher taxes would cause fewer people to invest or to save.

Written by Lisa Swan

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A new survey seems to suggest that younger investors are more comfortable with risk. OnWallStreet.com  reports that the risk level of younger investors in mutual funds is now higher than the level seen before the financial crisis in 2008.

The Investment Company Institute surveyed four thousand households in May and discovered that 39% investors under 35 were able to tolerate “above-average or substantial financial risk” in order to get the returns they want. This is up from 31% in the previous two years and is even a little higher than the 37% level in May of 2008, just before the recession.

On the other hand, the risk tolerance of those 65 and older is much lower – 13% as of May 2012, which is similar to the 14% number in May 2008.

“Willingness to take financial risk is strongly affected by age, but has also varied over time within age groups,” said Sarah Holden, who is the organization’s Senior Director of Retirement and Investor Research. She said that “between 2011 and 2012, the willingness to take investment risk among all but the youngest shareholder group fell or remained about the same, while the youngest age group’s risk tolerance increased.”

According to the survey, 53.8 million American households own mutual funds. That adds up to 44.4% of all U.S. households.

Written by Lisa Swan

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According to a new survey, millionaires are very comfortable with using financial advisors, and appreciate what they do.  The Millionaire’s Corner says that millionaires understand the role financial advisors play.

The most important benefit of hiring a financial advisor, according to 3/4 of the millionaires surveyed, is that the advisor “improves my knowledge of investing.”

 The second most-important benefit of a financial advisor, according to over 2/3 of the millionaires, is that the financial advisor “provides me with a wider range of investment opportunities.” And 2/3 of the millionaires surveyed said that the connection with the financial advisor “improves my investment returns,” with 57% saying that dealing with a financial advisor “gives me peace of mind.”

The millionaires surveyed found very little drawbacks to working with a financial advisor, with “higher fees” being the thing 54% cited. Yet a majority of millionaires said they were comfortable with what they paid their financial advisor, and the bigger the net worth of the millionaire, the more comfortable they were.

Written by Lisa Swan

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Your clients are probably very concerned about the implications of the fiscal cliff issue, and what it means for them. Here are six tips on how to deal with it, courtesy of OnWallStreet.com:

 

  1. Let them know that we could be facing financial volatility:  Nobody knows what it all means, which could mean some real financial uncertainty ahead.
  2. Reduce the risk in their portfolios: Now is a time to play it a little safe.
  3. Put in “staged buying”: Look for good opportunities to get into the market that your clients will like.
  4. Focus on cash flow: Put money in stocks that may see a big increase in dividends.
  5. Think about dollar-cost averaging: This could mean that more shares will be purchased during times when prices are very low, which could lower these numbers.
  6. Make sure clients have liquid assets: Your customers need to have enough money to get through the next 18 months without having to sell anything.

Written by Lisa Swan

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It’s going to be a lame-duck Congressional session to remember, thanks to the fiscal cliff. OnWallStreet.com says that when members of Congress return to town this week, they have a lot on their plate, such as the fiscal cliff issue looming, and the Bush tax cuts expiring.

Andrew Friedman, who works for Washington Update, a company that does policy analysis, says he expects to see some big volatility in the stock market over the next few months. “I think we’re going to see a lot of money in motion in the next couple months,” he recently told reporters.

Friedman also said that the U.S. elections last week put us “right back where started,” with the Democrats keeping the presidency and the Senate, and Republicans keeping the House. He said that there will need to be “consensus” between the two parties to get anything done.

And there is a lot to be done this year.  Friedman called the next two months “the mother of all lame-duck sessions,” with the fiscal cliff issue taking up most of Congress’ schedule for the session.

Written by Lisa Swan

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In an effort to help business victims of Hurricane Sandy, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority altered some of their rules. OnWallStreet.com reports that FINRA has relaxed some mandatory requirements for financial advisors.

The publication says that “rules were altered on Thursday regarding office relocations, deadlines for regulatory filings, such as U4 forms, deadlines for continuing education, and new member applications.” FINRA is also giving time extensions for those who were afflicted by the superstorm.

The agency said that it “recognizes that members need relief from many regulatory requirements as a result of the dislocation caused by Hurricane Sandy.”  In addition, it has encouraged financial advisors to let displaced advisors work with them temporarily. FINRA also said that financial firms should put a notice on their websites for customers to let them know who they should contact regarding their accounts.

FINRA itself faced issues due to Hurricane Sandy. It has been unable to access its New York office membership office. It advised new members to contact them regarding the status of their paperwork.

Written by Lisa Swan

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Hurricane Sandy disrupted many lives, including those of financial advisors and their clients. Frances McMorris writes for OnWallStreet.com about how financial advisors can help their customers during this time.

The first step is to get in touch with your customers and make sure they are okay. McMorris says that after Hurricane Irene, “the advisors who checked on their elderly clients” helped build “more trust; who created stronger bonds and lasting relationships” with those customers. She said that one advisory team even sent out pizzas to a client after Hurricane Irene to make sure he had “comfort food.”

McMorris says that in the financial advisory industry, people talk a lot about getting trust built with clients, and that the hurricane situation is something where you can make a real difference. “Showing concern during difficult times for clients can make an advisor stand out from all the others,” she writes.

Of course, financial advisors need to make sure that they and their families are taken care of first. But after that, they can help out clients and make sure that they are doing fine after the hurricane, and offer assistance if they are not.

Written by Lisa Swan

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Did you know that despite the economic turmoil Barack Obama inherited as president and the state of the economy during his term, that the stock market actually had one of its best performances in history?

WealthManagement.com quoted figures from Leuthold Weeden Research showing that the S&P 500 has shown a 77.8% price return during Obama’s administration, as of September 2012.

There are also some other surprising figures historically in the article. In Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, the S&P showed a record price return of 162%. At 79.2% and 72.9% respectively, Bill Clinton’s first and second terms were second and fourth in the top five historically, regarding the S&P 500 figures.

There was only one Republican in the top five numbers for the S&P – Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term, which showed a 69.9% price return.

Written by Lisa Swan

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Morgan Stanley announced that it had lower numbers of advisors as of 2012’s third quarter, but with slightly higher financial advisor productivity. WealthManagement.com revealed that the firm now has 16,829 advisors, down 1 percent from the previous quarter and 5 percent from this time the year before.

In comparison, Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch, said that their head counts have stayed flat in the previous quarter. Scott Smith of Cerulli Associates told WealthManagement.com regarding Morgan Stanley that “they’re mucking along, but with 16-17,000 advisors, it’s just tough to recruit to fill natural attrition and retirement.”

In addition, Morgan Stanley said that they were purchasing back Citigroup’s 14 percent share in the company. Morgan Stanley also shed Smith Barney from its name. The Citigroup purchase would be $13.5 billion at 100 percent valuation. The firm also said that it would buy Citigroup’s remaining 35 percent share in the company by 2015.

Morgan Stanley announced that its FAs saw their revenue per advisor go up this quarter. The assets under management per advisor increased from $101 million to $105 million.

James Gorman, the company’s CEO, said that “a key to our future is the increased contribution of our wealth management to our revenue, profitability, returns and funding stability.”

Written by Lisa Swan

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Some financial advisors may need a new elevator speech, WealthManagement.com writes. The article says that “answering basic questions about value proposition continues to challenge so many financial advisors.” That means being able to answer simple questions about who you are, and what you have to offer. Here are some of the areas that WealthManagement.com says raise red flags:

  • Reciting a mission statement: This can “activate the sales alert antenna,” the article says, and can end up causing harm.
  • Putting on an “I’m smart” act: While advisors are generally smart, it is not smart to try to sound too complex with obscure jargon. It could potentially be a turnoff to your clients.
  • Acting like “I really care”: This should be “a given,” the article says, like having good hygiene. Some read “I really care” as a sales pitch. Show, don’t tell.
  • Communicating “I’m different”:  Give a normal response. You potential clients won’t like an answer that comes across as silly or weird.

Instead, when asked what you do, keep in mind that half of the people aren’t even listening to your answer. But you don’t want to answer it in any of the above ways, or it will raise red flags. In addition, communicate with good body language, not just words.

Written by Lisa Swan

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