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How about some good news as it relates to your retirement and investment portfolio? It's 2024, and it's an election year! That might seem counterintuitive because one of the most asked questions I get in 2024, 2020, 2016, 2012, or 2008, the election years that have spanned my career, is, "Doesn't the stock market decline in these years?" The theory behind this question is founded in a rational argument because the market does tend to have a lot of volatility as it relates to candidates saying this or that; however, thanks to research done by LPL Financial, we see that the average return for the S&P 500 in a presidential election year is 7%. This is below the long-term average of 10% and the nearly 17% we see in the year before an election year (last year's S&P 500's return surpassed 25%), but it's positive. When looking at reelection years (when an incumbent is running for election again) the return is actually closer to 12.2%, according to the same study. Dave Ramsey haters, take a breath since I quoted the most hated number in your numerical vocabulary - 12%.


With the presidential election season heating up, there will no doubt be a flurry of daily headlines between now and election day on November 5. A rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump seems inevitable with Trump currently leading many presidential polls among registered voters while Biden is raising and spending more campaign funds. Although a lot can happen between now and November, it's natural for some investors to be concerned about the impact of politics on the stock market and economy. After all, the political climate has never felt more polarized not just due to elections, but also disagreements in Washington around the budget, immigration, foreign policy, and more. How can investors stay balanced during this year's presidential election?


The stock market has performed well under both parties



As citizens, taxpayers, and voters, elections are extremely important regardless of which side of the aisle you're on and which candidate you support. Your vote helps to determine the principles that the country will uphold in the years to come.


However, when it comes to our investments, it's important to vote at the ballot box and not with our hard-earned savings. When it comes down to it, long-term investors should be wary of claims that one candidate or another will "kill the market" or "ruin the economy." It's likely that this has been said about every president in modern times across 15 presidencies since 1933 (7 republicans and 8 democrats), and was certainly said about Obama, Trump, and Biden. Thus, it's important to separate personal and political feelings from financial plans and investments.


The accompanying chart highlights the broad fact that the economy and stock market have performed well across both parties. Focusing too much on who was in the White House would have resulted in poor investment decisions over history, regardless of how strongly one felt. For example, from 2008 through 2020 across the Obama and Trump administrations, the S&P 500 generated a total return of 236%. This occurred despite the vast perceived differences between the parties and the increasing polarization of Washington politics. This also occurred despite many budget battles, fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling crises, U.S. credit rating downgrades, etc., not to mention the global financial crisis, the pandemic, and more.


Of course, this is not to say that good policy doesn't matter. Policies on taxes, trade, industrial activity, antitrust, and more can have important impacts on specific industries which can then affect the broader economy. This is why our partnership with our research partners like FS Insights and DataTrek are so important and why Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has furthered our commitment to research by hiring our own in-house research analyst, Summit Puri. However, not only do policy changes tend to be incremental, but also history shows that it is very difficult to predict how any particular policy might affect the economy and markets, despite conventional wisdom about each party. Stock prices account for new policies quickly and companies and industries tend to adjust and adapt.


The business cycle matters much more than who is in the White House


This is why for most long-term investors, it makes more sense to focus on fundamentals such as those related to the business cycle, rather than day-to-day election coverage. On a short-term basis, election headlines have the power to move markets and create stock market volatility. However, these moves are eclipsed by the long-term gains created by market and business cycles. These cycles are influenced by many factors, from technological revolutions to globalization, and not just who is sitting in the Oval Office. The reason the returns since 2008 have been historically strong, with the market now back at all-time highs, is less about Obama, Trump, or Biden, than the underlying economic trends.


This is perhaps best illustrated by the 1990s and early 2000s. Bill Clinton's two terms were perfectly timed with the information technology boom while the ensuing dot-com bust coincided with the start of the George W. Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the 2008 financial crisis also occurred at the tail end of George W. Bush's second term, resulting in his presidency encompassing both market crashes. Despite this, it would be a stretch to argue that their presidencies were the reason for these booms and busts. I could argue Bill Clinton's policies had more to do with the mortgage meltdown of 2008, yet he oversaw one of the best market stretches ever. While policies influenced these events, they had much more to do with technological and financial innovations. These and other historical episodes suggest that presidents often receive too much blame and credit for economic conditions.


Stock market returns are positive on average across both parties


For those who are unconvinced that they should avoid day-to-day political headlines when it comes to investing, the final point is that average stock market returns have historically been positive under both parties. To underscore this point: it is not the case that markets always crash under one political party.


The accompanying chart shows that no matter how you slice it, the S&P 500 has averaged double-digit gains whether democrats or republicans are in the White House. Additionally, history tells us that market returns are positive on average during election and non-election years alike. While the past is no guarantee of the future, and returns in any individual year are unpredictable, jumping out of the market due to the outcome of an election, or simply because an election is occurring, is not a decision supported by history.


The bottom line? The best course of action for long-term investors is to stay balanced and not make investment decisions based on political preferences. Vote based on your Biblical, Christian worldview, but don't let a loss or win of any political party recalibrate your investment portfolio. Daniel 2:21, "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding."

Election Coverage 2024: Presidential Elections & Their Impact on Markets

March 5, 2024

John-Mark Young

Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is an SEC-registered investment adviser firm.  The information presented is for educational purposes only and intended for a broad audience.  The information does not intend to make an offer or solicitation to sell or purchase any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed.  Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers reasonably believes that this marketing does not include any false or misleading statements or omissions of facts regarding services, investment, or client experience. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has a reasonable belief that the content will not cause an untrue or misleading implication regarding the adviser’s services, investments, or client experiences. Please refer to the firm’s ADV Part 2A for material risks disclosures.

Past performance of specific investment advice should not be relied upon without knowledge of certain circumstances of market events, the nature and timing of the investments, and relevant constraints of the investment. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has presented information in a fair and balanced manner. 

Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is not giving tax, legal or accounting advice, consult a professional tax or legal representative if needed. 

Copyright (c) 2023 Clearnomics, Inc. and Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, LTD. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not necessarily complete and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness, or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein. The views and the other information provided are subject to change without notice. All reports posted on or via www.clearnomics.com or any affiliated websites, applications, or services are issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific recipient and are not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results. Company fundamentals and earnings may be mentioned occasionally, but should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold the company's stock. Predictions, forecasts, and estimates for any and all markets should not be construed as recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any security--including mutual funds, futures contracts, and exchange traded funds, or any similar instruments. The text, images, and other materials contained or displayed in this report are proprietary to Clearnomics, Inc. and constitute valuable intellectual property. All unauthorized reproduction or other use of material from Clearnomics, Inc. shall be deemed willful infringement(s) of this copyright and other proprietary and intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, rights of privacy. Clearnomics, Inc. expressly reserves all rights in connection with its intellectual property, including without limitation the right to block the transfer of its products and services and/or to track usage thereof, through electronic tracking technology, and all other lawful means, now known or hereafter devised. Clearnomics, Inc. reserves the right, without further notice, to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by the law any and all criminal and civil remedies for the violation of its rights.

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