From the March 2013 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

No-Bull Bull Market

Sunny San Diego played host to this year’s TD Ameritrade annual conference, and the mood matched the weather. One breakout session in particular stood out for its brazen attitude toward what may come.

Richard Bernstein, former chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch and current CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors, said of 2013 (with no hint of hyperbole), “This could be the greatest bull market of our lifetime. It could rival the bull market from 1982.”

Man, I hope he’s right.

While he made tall claims to a seemingly skeptical audience, he had the arguments and numbers to back them up.

He began by noting bull markets are not “wine and roses.” They are periods of fear, indecision and uncertainty, which he called “the word of the day.”

“Has anyone not heard that word in the past week?” he asked to laughter. “That word is screaming like a sign on the highway saying ‘Opportunity!’ We shouldn’t worry about uncertainty; we should worry when everyone is certain.”

Point taken, but after years of “bumping along the bottom,” a “long, slow slog,” and the certainty of the new normal and muted growth, might Bernstein be on to something?

We think so, which is one of the reasons for this month’s cover story. Retirement issues have taken a back seat to more pressing concerns in the fits and starts that have characterized the economic recovery since 2008. But Bernstein and many others feel we’re on solid enough footing to actually feel something long forgotten: optimism. So where do pre-retirees now sit with their preparation? Baby boomers in particular were in bad shape before the worst coordinated global financial meltdown in the history of the world hit, and when it did, many gave up on the thought of retirement altogether. Are they still that bad off?

If you want answers, go to the source, so we did. Phyllis Borzi, Matt Greenwald and Barbara Roper, among others, sound off on the pressing retirement issues of the day. Now that we have a moment to think, what should we be thinking about? Yes, there are still many more questions than answers, but we’ll take it as a leading indicator that they’re even being asked.

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