Nobody said there would be agreement. Independent investment advisors are divided on the long-term prospects for the U.S. economy and its impact on client portfolios, according to the latest Charles Schwab study of RIAs. In fact, 44 percent expect the current recession to end this year, while 41 percent believe the recession will extend into next year. The study shows that advisors agree the present recessionary climate is challenging indeed, with 84 percent of those surveyed saying that achieving investment goals in the current environment is difficult. Compared with portfolio values as of September 1, 2008, 55 percent of advisors say portfolios will take as long as three years to recover, and 35 percent think it will take somewhere between three to five years to recoup losses. What we have then is a mix of optimism and realism. RIAs understand the gravity of the country’s economic condition but do believe that the nation’s current leaders will put the U.S. on firmer footing. In a dramatic increase from prior surveys, 67 percent of advisors are hopeful that the country will become more united during the next six months (nearly tripling from 23 percent in July 2008). Breaking this down, look at some of these numbers:

  • Sixty-eight percent believe consumer savings will increase
  • Fifty-three percent think the S&P will rise during the first half of this year
  • Ninety-two percent now believe unemployment will rise
  • Sixty-nine percent say the housing market will continue to soften
  • Ten percent expect the Fed to raise rates
  • Twenty-one percent believe energy prices will go down

It’s clear today that investors are seeking out the trusted counsel of RIAs. More than 90 percent of advisors won new clients in the last six months. Current clients, however, are confused, and advisors are reaching out to assuage their concerns. Seventy-eight percent of the advisors have increased the amount of proactive contact they have with their clients; more than 70 percent provide education about the market. Clients of the advisors surveyed also appear to be more prudent, particularly those who are already in retirement. In fact, 78 percent of advisors say that more of their retired clients are considering short-term expense reductions. Forty-nine percent say more retirees are changing their investment strategies, and an equal number point out that retirees are reducing the amount of their retirement distributions. Where and how are advisors investing? As the economy rebuilds, advisors expect health care (50 percent), consumer staples (43 percent), and energy (37 percent) to be the top performing sectors over the next six months. An overwhelming 79 percent say ETFs are their top investment vehicles for capitalizing on these opportunities. REITs and high-yield bond are right behind. Visit www.aboutschwab.com/advisors for more details.

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