Fiscal cliff fears have investors inundating financial planners




Posted on December 6, 2012 at 11:25 PM

FORT WORTH -- Inside the office of Rosenthal Retirement Planning, Thursday was a welcome break. At their annual holiday party, they were finally able to spend an afternoon spreading Christmas cheer instead of calming "fiscal cliff" fear.

"It's real common," said President Burk Rosenthal. "We're hearing it all day long, every day."

He said many clients are weighing whether it's time to sell stock in favor of cash.

"Not everybody wants to sell it all off," he said, "but lots of them say it's time to be less aggressive.

"There's definitely concern, and the biggest concern is the tax hike," Rosenthal concluded.

December 31 is the day when the tax cuts passed during the the George W. Bush presidency are set to expire. It is also the date when deep cuts to federal spending are scheduled to take effect. The term "fiscal cliff" is being used to describe the situation, and it is being talked about non-stop in the media.

Rosenthal said many of his clients are asking for advice about how the hikes could impact the market, the economy, and their own portfolios.

University of Texas at Arlington Associate Economics Professor Dr. Bill Crowder said he's not surprised that uncertainty is causing some fear.

"The one thing financial markets hate is uncertainty," he said. Though he's not convinced investors should be too worried.

"I view it more as a fiscal speed bump really than a fiscal cliff," Crowder said. "In my mind, and I know other economists might disagree with me, but I don't think this will be the dramatic event everybody is portending. It will be much like Y2K. Remember the excitement about that? When it happened, nothing really changed and we all went on with our lives. I think that's how this will work out."

Crowder said if there is no compromise, people will feel the change. He said with payroll taxes going up, paychecks will be smaller. And he said other changes may mean an average small business owner might not be able to expand a workforce. He also said it's possible the stock market could drop several hundred points.

But he said a recovery would follow. He believes the bigger concern should be the nation's long-term debt crisis.

Thinking long term is something Rosenthal is preaching, too. He said people need to focus on the big picture.

"It's too easy to look at the here-and-now and forget about the overall plan, the long-term plan and overall goals and objectives," he said. "It's not just today that's important."