The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Trump impeachment inquiry is just one more thing for investors to worry about

President Trump speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

If you’re investing for retirement or your child’s college fund, it’s best that you don’t check your investment statement too often these days.

So much can make the market move up or down — recession fears or economic issues overseas, such as the never-ending chaos around Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, referred to as Brexit.

But President Trump’s actions can especially spook investors or spark a rally. It’s maddening if you’re glued to your portfolio performance.

One day, the president promises that a trade deal with China is close to being inked and the market closes up on the news.

Sept. 13: Stocks rise for week on easing of U.S.-China trade tensions, erasing August losses

But a few weeks earlier, when Trump imposed more tariffs on China, your investments took a dive.

Sept. 3: Global markets rattled amid Brexit, U.S.-China trade war standoffs; Dow falls nearly 300 points

Rinse and repeat when Trump is pushing the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates or when he takes to Twitter.

Read: Why Trump’s tweets are scaring inexperienced investors

And now get ready for some more market whiplash following a formal impeachment investigation by the House into whether Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Just before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment inquiry, the market reacted.

Sept. 24: Stocks fall as Democrats turn up heat on Trump

“It was the market’s most volatile day this month,” the Associated Press’s Alex Veiga reported. “The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from a gain of 130 points to a loss of around 245 points as investors’ attention swung between headlines on economics and politics. The index finished with a loss of 142 points.”

But then stocks rebounded after Trump released a summary of a call with Zelensky. But the market may also have gone up because Trump said a deal with China “could happen sooner than you think.”

“If you noticed, the stock market went up when they saw the nonsense,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “All of a sudden, the stock market went down substantially yesterday when they saw a charge. After they read the charge the stock market went up substantially.”

By Thursday morning, Trump posted a tweet complaining that impeaching him would crash the market.

However, before the markets opened, Dow futures were up.

Read: Live updates: Trump lashes out at Democrats as whistleblower complaint is made public

With all this back and forth, what’s an investor to do?

“The main takeaway for the economy and markets is that there will be more uncertainty at a time when the uncertainty fire is already burning brightly,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long wrote. “There’s Brexit, Hong Kong protests, a slowing China, a Middle East flare-up and no end in sight to Trump’s unpredictable trade war.”

Read: On Wall Street, the fear is Trump’s trade policies, not impeachment

It’s at times like this that it’s important to take a pause. I asked the following financial advisers how investors should respond to the impeachment inquiry:

Adam Phillips, certified financial planner and director of portfolio strategy at EP Wealth Advisors based in California.

Douglas Boneparth, a certified financial planner and president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York.

Louis Barajas, a certified financial planner who runs the California-based Wealth Management LAB.

Carolyn McClanahan, a physician turned certified financial planner who founded the fee-only Life Planning Partners based in Florida.

Ric Edelman, based in Virginia, is co-founder of Edelman Financial Engines.

Q: Should investors be worried that a House impeachment inquiry could negatively impact the stock market?

Phillips: The impeachment inquiry adds yet another brick to the wall of worry facing investors and comes at a time when uncertainty is already plaguing a fragile global economy. It would not surprise me to see stocks fluctuate as the market digests developments on the story in the coming days and weeks, but the reality is that nothing has changed for now.

Barajas: Yes, there should be concern. Most people already have concerns about an impending recession. This might be the thread that unravels the economy.

Boneparth: The truth is that no one knows for sure if these proceedings will bring markets down as we have seen varying results in the past. While impeachment is not a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will bring down the markets. However, deteriorating market fundamentals could feed off this type of headline risk.

McClanahan: We stress to clients over and over that the best way to prepare for market downswings and upswings is to already have an investment policy in place that reflects the amount of risk they can take. If they are close to retirement or already in retirement, they shouldn’t take a lot of risk. All of the news is just noise to the market and people shouldn’t react to it.

Edelman: Everyone realizes that this a purely political issue, based on the high level of animosity between President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. No one expects the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, to support the impeachment effort — meaning the entire exercise has a predictable conclusion. Since the effort will not result in a change in power at the White House, there will be no policy shifts due to a new president taking office. Therefore, Wall Street is ignoring this, and attributing it to nothing more than a continuation of the gridlock that has prevailed in the nation’s capital since Trump entered office.

Q: How did the markets respond when the House impeached President Bill Clinton? And does that give investors an insight into how the markets may respond in light of Trump investigation?

Phillips: Investors rely on historical analogues for perspective, but we only have a few examples from history where a U.S. president faced impeachment. Each case was unique and, unfortunately, neither the Nixon nor Clinton examples are very informative. The Watergate investigation coincided with the OPEC oil embargo, so it is hard to know how much of market sell-off was attributed to the political pressure facing Nixon. Meanwhile, Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 was clouded by the bailout of Long-Term Capital Management.

Barajas: From the start of Clinton’s impeachment in January 1998 through his acquittal in February 1999, the S&P gained 28 percent.

Boneparth: Things weren’t so bad with Clinton. The dip before proceedings were more because of the Russian financial crisis than anything. Nixon had the Arab oil embargo. After Nixon’s resignation conditions improved, and by the time Clinton was acquitted things had improved. The Clinton proceedings should not be used as a proxy for what’s going to happen here. We’re talking about two completely different economies and market conditions.

McClanahan: During the year of President Clinton’s impeachment trial, the markets went up. When Nixon was impeached, the markets went down. Markets rise and fall for various reasons, and political upheaval is only one tiny drop in the bucket of what moves the market, and it isn’t indicative of any direction the market will take.

Edelman: Everyone knew that the Democrat-controlled Senate would not sustain the Republican-controlled House’s impeachment. So the stock market ignored it.

Q: Should investors be doing anything different in light of the current political turmoil?

Phillips: The reality is that for now nothing has changed except that a long process is now underway. Where that road eventually leads is highly uncertain, so the best action for now is likely no action at all. Impeachment is one thing, but removing President Trump from office requires support from the Senate, and that seems to be a high hurdle for now.

Barajas: Since it’s almost impossible to time any market, investors need to review their current portfolios in light to their goals. If they continue to have long-term goals, they should be okay in a well-diversified asset allocated portfolio. If long-term goals have become short-term after a decade of being in the market, they should consider looking at their portfolio and consider moving to less aggressive exposure in the market by adding more bonds or keeping more in cash for their short-term needs.

Boneparth: The best move is sticking to your financial plan. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to get one. A comprehensive financial plan would cover the relationship between cash flow and savings, risk management, investment, retirement, tax and estate. Understanding how these areas of your life work together helps individuals reach their financial goals more effectively than simply guessing. Investors that make it through volatility in the best shape are those with a clear understand of where they going financially and in life. It prevents emotional and regrettable decisions from being made.

McClanahan: If they don’t have a good investment policy in place, use this as an opportunity to create one and to start following it. Never take more risk than you can handle financially or emotionally. However, make sure you vote and call your senators and representatives to make sure they are taking the right steps to protect our democracy. We can’t have a healthy stock market if we don’t have a truly healthy democracy.

Edelman: Investors should ignore the impeachment proceedings, or watch them solely for what they are: entertainment.

Even after this advice, you may still be still wondering what you should do.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do. Don’t make a move based just on the news. That’s trying to time the market, and it’s not a winning strategy for most investors.

Read more:

Your retirement money may not be as safe as you think

Three financial experts address retirees’ five most pressing worries about the recession and their retirement funds

Color of Money Question of the Week

Are you worried that the impeachment process will hurt your investments? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. Put “Impeachment and the Stock Market” in the subject line.

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