October 31, 2012

Affluent Investors More Confident but Still on the Sidelines

Attitudes are improving, but behaviors have yet to follow; worries about fiscal cliff persist

Millionaires and billionaires may be hot potatoes on the campaign trail, but they’re usually more than welcome as financial advisor clients. Now, results of a monthly survey show they are a happier lot than they have been in the past half year, though they still have a way to go toward fairly being described as confident.

Spectrem Group publishes two indexes at the end of each month—an affluent investor confidence index for those with investable assets of $500,000 and a millionaire investor confidence index, a wealthier subset of the same survey of affluent households.

In the month just ended, the millionaires’ confidence climbed a significant six points, but the big jump only brought these wealthy investors to a reading of minus 2. The merely affluent investor confidence index ticked up a single point, bringing that broader group to a reading of 2, the highest level since May. (The index ranges from minus 20 to 20.)

Another plus for millionaires’ confidence is that, for the first time in more than a year, each of the components of the survey of affluent households rose, meaning that household income, household assets, company health and the economy all improved in wealthy people’s estimation.

While the survey found that most investment behaviors—stock investing, bond investing and cash holdings for example, remained largely unchanged, merely ticking up or down—non-millionaire (i.e., affluent) investors did sharply increase their stock investments, rising 16.6 points to a 36.1 level.

While that may seem like grounds for stockbrokers and financial advisors to celebrate, consider that the level of affluent investors remaining on the sidelines is higher still, at 48.6 points, basically unchanged from the previous month.

In a news release, Spectrem Group president George Walper described the attitude of affluent investors as one of “cautious optimism.”

Spectrem says a major concern of affluent investors is the yet-unresolved fiscal cliff.

The Chicago-based consulting group bases its survey on online interviews with financial decision makers in 250 affluent households, and says its index has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 percentage points.

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