As we approach the 2022 midterm elections, we are already hearing about who may run in 2024. As usual, the media is telling us that this is the most important election ever — and that is true.
The record voter turnout and record early voting in 2020 were evidence of how high emotions were running. We expect much the same in both the upcoming mid-terms and the 2024 election. People continue to ask our team what this election means for markets and individuals’ portfolios. Our answer is, “Possibly less than you might think.”
What History Tells Us About How Elections Affect the Markets
People have had extremely strong opinions about politics as things have become more polarized. While there are important policy ramifications that will impact all of us, history has shown that the broader markets don’t care which party is elected – yet people are still concerned about the outcome.
Nick Murray, a financial advisory professional for more than 50 years, says his network of thousands of financial advisors reported more election-related anxiety among investors before the 2020 election than ever before. In his October 2020 Client’s Corner newsletter, Murray advised, “Take your political convictions completely out of your investment decision making…The mistake a lot of investors seem hell bent on making these days is thinking that the person and policies of the president are importantly correlated to the stock market. There is zero basis, in fact, for this conviction.”
Research proves this to be true. The S&P 500 Index has historically underperformed in the year leading up to midterm elections. The average annual return of the S&P 500 in the 12 months before a midterm election is 0.3 percent, which is significantly lower than the historical average of 8.1 percent. The post-midterm election period is somewhat the opposite. The S&P 500 has historically outperformed the market in the 12-month period after a midterm election, with an average return of 16.3 percent. This is especially true for the one- and three-month periods following midterm elections, which historically have significantly outperformed years with no midterm election.
Do U.S. Stock Returns Fare Better with Democratic or Republican Presidents?
Bespoke Research shows that since 1900, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 4.8 percent annually, regardless of which party is in the White House. However, stocks do better in the lead-up to elections when America is signaling a Republican presidential win.
Peter Lazaroff, author of Making Money Simple, says U.S. stock returns have been much better when a Democrat was the president. His conclusion is based on his review of total returns for the S&P 500 during presidencies since 1929. However, he says it would be a mistake to conclude that stock returns were higher because a Democrat held the presidency.
Lazaroff says there is no conclusive evidence suggesting the U.S. president’s party has any statistically significant impact on U.S. equity market returns. Stock returns are influenced by myriad factors, including valuations, corporate profits, business cycles and monetary policy. Plus, the S&P 500 generates more than half of revenues outside the United States. The increasingly global economy reduces the overall impact of the actions of a single government.
Don’t Mix Your Portfolio with Politics
As always, we recommend looking to the long term when assessing your portfolio’s performance. Making knee-jerk decisions about your finances while feeling strong emotions of any kind never ends well.
According to a report from SunTrust Advisory Services, people who have sold U.S. stocks to protest any winner of past presidential races, whether Democrat or Republican, has meant losing out on skyrocketing returns during the new president’s first year in office. Keith Lerner, chief market strategist for SunTrust, writes that for most years from 1933 to 2019, markets “have done well under a range of political scenarios,” regardless of which party occupied the White House. He adds that over the past 15 years, despite U.S. politics becoming increasingly acrimonious, the S&P 500 still outshined, with a 20 percent-plus return, during the first year of any president following an election. “We strongly caution against mixing portfolios and politics.”
It Doesn’t Really Matter Who Wins
Resist the temptation to exit the market during tumultuous times. Nick Murray says, “When you radically alter your long-term portfolio because of current events — even when you tell yourself it’s ‘just this once, and just briefly’ — you’re not investing anymore. You’re gambling. Too many people find to their regret that once they’ve crossed that line, they’re never able to get back.”
It doesn’t really matter who wins our elections. Those who are voted into office won’t be in office forever anyway. So go ahead and celebrate or complain about the outcome of the next election. Just don’t make any changes to your investment strategy based on how you feel about it. The key is to work with a trusted advisor to develop a plan based on your needs today and in the future. The plan must be dynamic and updated as circumstances change in your life, tax rules change or the overall economy evolves. As always, we want to avoid having a concentration in any single asset or sector.
Regardless of who is president, and regardless of any turmoil in the markets, we strongly advise that you stick to your long-term plan. What happens week to week, month to month or even year to year is not important. Your long-term ability to maintain and enhance your standard of living is what matters most. Trying to time the markets simply doesn’t work, whether there is concern about an election or any other event.
We Can’t Predict the Future
There are interesting trends to watch, but again, they do not predict the future. Flukes are always possible, as we saw in 2016!
It’s futile to try to predict the future, and with a proper plan, you don’t have to! Looking at historical trends about stock market performance before, during and after presidential elections can help us set our expectations (with a healthy dose of salt).
We expect new challenges for investors as inflation increases, volatility continues, and tax laws evolve. However, these challenges also present an opportunity for those who are prepared, both financially and psychologically. We were told that the 2020 election was the most important in our lifetime — but so will the elections in 2022, 2024 and every two years after.
Our team is here for you and your family. We have developed and refined our Personal Vision Planning Process® over the past 30 years for times like today. Please reach out to me personally, at (440) 974-0808 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or to any of our team, with questions or if we can otherwise be of service. Your vision is our priority.
Randy Carver, CRPC®, CDFA®, is the president and founder of Carver Financial Services, Inc., and is also a registered principal with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Randy has more than 32 years of experience in the financial services business. Carver Financial Services, Inc. was established in 1990 and is one of the largest independent financial services offices in the country, managing $2.2 billion in assets for clients globally, as of December 2021. Randy and his team work with individuals who are in financial transition as a result of divorce, retirement or the sale of a business. You may reach Randy at email@example.com.
The information contained in this post does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Randy Carver
and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.
Returns are based on the S&P 500 Total Return Index, an unmanaged, capitalization-weighted index that measures the performance of 500 large capitalization domestic stocks representing all major industries. Indices do not include fees or operating expenses and are not available for actual investment. The hypothetical performance calculations are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be representative of actual results while investing over the time periods shown. The hypothetical performance calculations are shown gross of fees. If fees were included, returns would be lower.
Hypothetical performance returns reflect the reinvestment of all dividends. The hypothetical performance results have certain inherent limitations. Unlike an actual performance record, they do not reflect actual trading, liquidity constraints, fees and other costs.
Also, because the trades have not actually been executed, the results may have under- or overcompensated for the impact of certain market factors such as lack of liquidity. Simulated trading programs in general are also subject to the fact that they are designed with the benefit of hindsight. Returns will fluctuate and an investment upon redemption may be worth more or less than its original value. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. An individual cannot invest directly in an index.
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