As the cooler air of fall sets in, a lot of us are feeling a mixture of dread and relief over our strange and seemingly endless presidential campaign season.
We have only a couple of months to go before voters settle on either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The dread comes from not knowing how much more intense things can get. The relief from knowing that on Election Day it will be over.
Guess what? The stock market doesn’t care a whit.
I know, I know. You’ve already been bombarded with analyses that show that the stock market has picked one candidate to win, while some clutch of sector stocks clearly has picked the other.
Yes, there is data to suggest a correlation between a rising stock market and an incumbent party win. Yet often we switch after two terms of a one party in the White House.
Correlation does not equal cause. Plus, there are exceptions along the way. If you go in big on a contrarian election-year bet and an exception occurs, you will lose money.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s alarmingly easy to shop data for the answer you want, whatever your party or political persuasion. It’s also a great way to dump boatloads of your retirement money by investing on the strength of comforting but erroneous conclusions.
Remember, the risk to your retirement is not volatility, the up and down movement of the stock market. The risk is acting on volatility. Emotionally driven investing is a sure money-loser and the main reason individual investors fail in the long run.
I do expect volatility up until Election Day, and after it, too. Whoever wins, we are likely to have a divided government. Meanwhile, our challenges and opportunities as a country and as an economy won’t change much.
People in both parties seem to believe a new president develops extraordinary powers once in office. They forget that our founding fathers made sure that isn’t possible, irrespective of party, ideology or personality, thanks to checks and balances.
We’ll have a different Congress, but not that much different. Lacking policy direction, the Federal Reserve will continue to carry the ball.
Meanwhile, your personal party affiliation could not matter less. Unless you’re one of the many wags talking up Canada as a new home, you will have to deal with whatever comes next.
Stock market drivers
The simple solution is portfolio investing. No change in the presidency will deter the stock market from doing what it does. In fact, our long record of smooth transfers of political power nullifies the personalities we think matter.
Remember Brexit, the United Kingdom plan to abruptly leave the European Union thanks to a referendum? Remember how investors panicked about their foreign investments as the vote neared?
Brexit won, but nothing happened, and it’s likely that nothing will for months or years to come. Real political change is slow. Checks and balances.
The U.S. presidential election is a non-event for your retirement investments — unless you make it into one through your own overreaction. As usual, the biggest risk to your retirement is our human propensity to market time, to attempt to get ahead of outcomes we cannot predict.
Own a portfolio that is risk-adjusted to your life, your goals and your emotional state. The country will take care of itself, as it always has, and admirably so.