How will the presidential election impact our finances and the broader economy?
Mellody: Obviously, the result of this election – the election of Donald Trump – will have huge consequences. Before we get to financial issues, we have to talk about the broader impact this will have on our community. We have seen the truly frightening sentiments his win has unleashed around the country, with supporters targeting, threatening or attacking Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and others.
Like millions of others, I am shocked at the outcome and uncertain about what it means for people of color. There will be huge ramifications, from our rights to our pocketbooks. To understand what they might be, we have to look at his policy proposals. Starting there, there are a few areas that have the potential to dramatically change things for everyday Americans.
I think we can all agree there are some very challenging times ahead for us. From a policy perspective, give us an example of a policy change that will have consequences for our finances.
Healthcare really stands out. On the healthcare front, Donald Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it, but he has not elaborated what would replace it. For many individual Americans, the destruction of the ACA will be a disaster. After all, the bill has dramatically decreased the number of uninsured americans, from a high of 48.6 million to 27.3 million now. On top of that, people can no longer be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, and the rise of healthcare costs has slowed.
While it is widely acknowledged that there are some areas that need to be fixed – for example premium rises averaged 25% over the last year, which is not palatable, and options in some places, especially rural areas are becoming fewer – president-elect Trump has not provided much detail about what his planned replacement would be, let alone how it would address rising healthcare costs and those who have few options, let alone those would lose their insurance with the repeal of the ACA. The concerns about changes clearly motivated people, as Wednesday saw a record 100,000 people signed up on the Obamacare exchanges.
What about taxes? He often talked about taxes during the campaign. What can we expect there?
For individuals, Trump campaigned on a platform of flattening the tax code, essentially making it less progressive. Under his plan, he would reduce the highest tax bracket from 39.6% and 35%, in the top two tax brackets respectively, to 33% but would raise the tax rates from 10% to 12% for households in the lowest tax bracket makings under $9,274.99, to 25% from 15% for households making between $37,500 to $37,649.99. Put clearly, this shifts a higher tax burden to lower-income workers, while cutting taxes for those who make the most.
In terms of taxes on companies, he also has big plans. The corporate tax rate is a big issue confronting the U.S., especially as other developed countries have lower corporate tax rates than the U.S. and multinational companies keep billions of dollars abroad to avoid paying taxes on profits here in the U.S. And tax policy is one area where we do have some level of detail about Mr. Trump’s plans for the country. He is proposing to drop the top U.S. corporate tax rate to 15% from 35%, and would like to impose a 10% minimum tax on untaxed foreign earnings. This would be a boon for corporate America, but the big question is how to pay for these tax cuts.
How will our investment portfolios be impacted?
Great question, and one that we are going to have to wait to answer. In the short-term, we know a few things. First, there were some predictions that a Trump victory would have huge downside consequences for the markets. That has not come to pass, primarily due to the fact that markets are reacting positively because the levers of power are all in the hands of one party.
That means that policies – like beneficial corporate tax policy – can get signed into law. As a result, we have seen some level of confidence return, and uncertainty has dissipated. Certain sectors, like banks and pharmaceuticals, have benefited heavily on speculation that the regulatory environment will be more beneficial. Conversely, there are huge concerns around the Affordable Care Act’s future, and that has caused hospital stocks and other healthcare equities to perform poorly.
In the longer term, a lot remains to be seen. Corporate America will be keeping a close eye on the president-elect’s picks for key cabinet posts, such as the Secretary of the Treasury, as well as his statements around the Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen’s future. Markets and business leaders will also be carefully following what policies the new administration prioritizes, and that in turn will impact the stock market’s performance, and in turn, Americans’ investment portfolios. All of that said, i return to one of my favorite mantras: in times of uncertainty, don’t do something, stand there. While all of this may be unnerving and you may want to make portfolio adjustments, now is not the time to do that.
Mellody is President of Ariel investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts. Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.