Welcome to season two of the Financial Finesse podcast. I’m Cathy Curtis, founder of Curtis Financial Planning, and a CFP®, focusing on the finances of female clients. I’m calling the second season, “What keeps you up at night?” Because let’s face it, there are a lot of things that keep us up at night lately. We’ve got rising COVID cases, an extremely contentious election, and just general uncertainty about what the future holds. Since the presidential election is right around the corner, I get a lot of questions from clients about what I think will happen to the stock market if the Democrats or Republicans prevail. So I thought I would start talking about that, for this first episode of the season.
To give a little perspective, the stock market has not done so badly considering the events of the year. The S&P 500, representing the 500 largest companies in the US, is up almost 8%. Now granted, this is largely due to the large mega cap tech stocks such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. But many of us own those stocks in the mutual funds that we hold either in our 401Ks or other accounts. Smaller size US companies, as represented by the Russell 2000 index, are down about 2%. International stocks, as represented by the EAFE index are down about 7%. And emerging market stocks are up almost 2%.
So let’s go back to this question, do markets perform better under a Democratic or Republican administration? Well, yes, presidents do have a lot of power, but they really don’t control the stock market. Maybe to some extent they do because of the policies that are put in place during their administrations. But with all the factors affecting the staggeringly complex markets and the overall economy, presidencies don’t matter as much as they seem to during campaign season such as we are in right now, where you can’t get away from the election news.
The truth is that an argument could be made either way for each candidate. For instance, the consensus thought is that corporate taxes will rise if Biden wins, presumably bad for stocks. He would also most likely tighten federal regulations on auto emissions and the environment. Good news for alternative energy and electric car companies, not so good if you own shares of let’s say Exxon Mobil.
However, Trump’s environmental policies have been favorable to Exxon Mobil. Yet the company stock has been one of the worst performers of the year. If Trump wins, he will probably move further in lightening up the tax and regulatory burdens on corporations, helping stock prices.
On the other hand, Biden’s policies would boost the economy by improving public health, increasing American trade and engaging infrastructure spending that could give the economy a much needed boost and a chance to expand.
The fact is that stocks have risen and fallen under both Democratic and Republican presidents. And more often than not, they rise. Instead of focusing on the short term, which is the election, a much more important lesson from history is simply time in the market, not timing political cycles.
It still holds true that no matter the ups and downs, from 1929 to 2019, the largest US companies have generated annualized returns of about 10%. No doubt the volatility will remain high through the election season, and maybe after if the results are close. In this case, keep in mind a key concept of investing. volatility is just a characteristic of stocks. It doesn’t imply the direction of stocks. Volatility is the price we pay for the higher return stocks provide. And that most of us need to meet our goals. And it’s only temporary.
One common way to reduce anxiety in most areas of life is to stay in the moment. The exception to this I would argue is when thinking about the stock market. It really pays to take the long view and ignore the moment-by-moment activity.
Thank you for listening. And please stay tuned for my next episode of what keeps you up at night, which will be posted two weeks from tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20. And if you have any questions, please be sure and let me know via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter, @CathyCurtis, or on my Facebook business page, Women and Money. I’d love to hear from you and what’s keeping you up at night. Bye for now.