The U.S. economy is poised for improvement, but a change in national leadership is key, Charles Schwab told an auditorium of financial advisors at San Francisco’s Moscone Center who had come for the Charles Schwab Corp.’s annual IMPACT convention. In a conversation with CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo yesterday morning, Schwab said a range of conditions exist to help fuel economic improvement—among them, healthy corporate balance sheets, and accommodative Federal Reserve policy (“way too much for me,” he added) of rock-bottom interest rates.
“We are at a point where we could make a significant turn” in the economy, Schwab said. “I think it’s going to require a sense of anticipation of change in leadership in America,” a sense that he hopes to see in the next four to six months. “America has always required great leadership … That’s what we’re hoping to see in November of next year.”
Schwab said the country needs a new tax system and new ways of dealing with budget deficits, and “someone of strength has to make those decisions.” He doesn’t include President Obama in that category. “There are a lot of good things about the current administration, I guess,” Schwab deadpanned at one point. But legislation that Obama has supported is burdensome to the economy. Dodd-Frank “is a disaster, frankly. We don’t even know about the Obamacare stuff,” Schwab said, drawing strong applause from the audience. (A record 3,800 advisors signed up for the conference.) But Schwab conceded that some financial problems, such as last year’s flash crash, have been driven by developments that warrant scrutiny. “I think we’ve stretched some boundaries,” he said. As far as solutions go, “Competition, I don’t think, is going to do it, unfortunately.”
The headlines skew the reality of economic fundamentals in the United States, he said. “Ninety percent of the population is working, at least the people who do want to work,” Schwab said. Greece, whose sovereign debt problems are plaguing Europe and are seen as a threat to the continent’s common currency, is just a $300 billion economy, a trifling size compared to America’s $15 trillion GDP, he said. “Why would you spend a lot of time worrying about it?” he asked. “I would not head for the hills…This is still a very good place to find good dividend-paying companies.,” Schwab’s company pays a 2 percent dividend, he noted, which beats a near-zero return on money market funds, funds who value is still threatened by inflation.
Schwab also dismissed the current market volatility as nothing new; 1 to 2 percent market moves have been around a long time, he told Bartiromo. Stocks are still the best place to grow money, although he conceded it’s not something that advisors can easily convince some of their clients these days. Once investors get out of stocks, they never get back in at the right time. “You can never achieve success, I don’t think, without some component of risk,” he said. “The advisor’s role today is as complicated as at any time in my lifetime.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement misunderstands the way the American economy works, he said. A robust economy is the only way to level the playing field of wealth in the nation. “Many of them don’t understand the complexity of the economic system, and how free enterprise really works,” he said. Referencing the “fairness” theme involving wealth distribution in the country, Schwab said, “The world is not fair. It requires hard work and dedication.”