A survey of more than 125 investment advisers who attended Oaks-based SEI Corp.'s national meeting earlier this month shows 74% want Republican Mitt Romney to win the November presidential election -- but 63% expect Democrat Barack Obama will be re-elected anyway.
The advisers are the largest, measured by assets, of the 6,000 who retail SEI funds, according to Steve Onofrio, the 24-year SEI veteran who manages the company's adviser network. "They average $150 million" in client funds under management," he told me. "They are independent advisers, all entrepreneurs" -- businesspeople with a payroll, reviewing investments, tax and insurance planning with their wealthy clients.
More than 9 out of 10 advisers expect voters will again split control of the government between Democrats and Republicans, with each party retaining control of at least one house of Congress, or the Presidency.
Which is bad news, according to the advisers, since split government is likely to mean more "log jams in Congress" and a failure to resolve funding for medical care and Social Security "entitlements" -- cited as the things that "most worry" 40% and 31% of advisers, respectively.
By contrast, a modest 16% are more worried about "tax increases in 2013," and the number more concerned about housing, gas prices, interest rates, or even unemployment are in the low-single-digits.
Why so little worry about taxes -- and so much about divided government? The working rich expect to be taxed; they dislike uncertainty over future rates, which makes it hard to plan capital investment and other longterm spending, Onofrio told me.
Planners deal with that uncertainty by preparing alterative scenarios -- changes they'll recommend based on whether income, capital gains and inheritance rates and state exemptions rise, or fall, with the Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire at year's end, unless divided Congress acts. Advisers "have plans at the ready" whichever way taxes go, Onofrio said.