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Retirement Investors Staying the Course Despite Coronavirus Worries: Survey

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Retirement Income Certified Professional advisors reported that many clients have become concerned about their retirement savings as a result of the novel coronavirus, but are still sticking with their plans, according to a new RICP Market Volatility Flash Survey by the American College of Financial Services.

More than 65% of the 245 RICP financial advisors surveyed by the college Feb. 28 to March 2 indicated their clients had become more likely to reach out to them due to recent market volatility, the college said.

Of those clients, 68% were either in retirement or one to five years away from retirement age, and half of them indicated they were more concerned about retirement security this year than in 2019, according to the survey.

Although clients were more concerned, more than 60% of advisors reported that none of their clients had made changes to their plans as a result of recent market performance, according to the survey.

While late-cycle economies “always bring an uptick in investor anxiety … the recent market volatility from the coronavirus is really packing a one-two punch on retirees and near-retirees’ sense of security,” according to David Littell, co-creator of the RICP curriculum and professor emeritus at the college.

“The fact that a majority are leaving their plans alone to weather this storm shows that client confidence in our RICPs and the plans that they’ve built are strong,” he said.

Strategies that the advisors surveyed are using to help their clients build plans that safeguard against market turmoil include: Staying in touch with clients through market volatility; advising them to build a floor of guaranteed income not subject to market volatility; using a cash reserve that can be tapped in a down market; and creating multiple portfolios for different time periods in retirement and making the longest-term portfolio more aggressive​, the college said.

As the novel coronavirus continued to spread globally, causing uncertainty about what lies ahead, concerns of a looming economic slowdown skyrocketed as the stock market weathered its worst week since The Great Recession last week, the college noted.

However, “this is not yet a black swan event,” according to Steve Parrish, co-director of the Center of Retirement Income at the American College of Financial Services.

“We all knew that a virus could disrupt the markets, and even cause a panic,” he said. Still, “our findings reiterate that unless you enjoy market speculation as a sport, there’s really no strategy to better insulate your retirement capital exposure other than to ride the market out — especially if you’re not yet retired,” he said.

RICPs are counseling their clients about the lessons they’ve learned over time, Wade Pfau, co-director of the Center for Retirement Income and program director for the RICP designation at the college, pointed out.

“Despite the stress that market volatility causes, investors are generally better off to stay the course with their strategy, as the downturn is reducing the stock allocation without any further need to sell,” he said.

— Check out ‘Year of the Election’ Has Become ‘Year of the Virus’: J.P. Morgan’s Kelly on ThinkAdvisor.