Two political conventions later, anyone looking for a concise view of either party's practical plans for issues relating to the retirement industry -- may still find themselves looking.
With the focus instead shifted on today's economic troubles and continued unemployment, the 2012 election seems like it will not be focused on long-term issues, to the frustration of those whose work depends on charting the long-term investment success for institutional clients.
In the meantime, Wells Fargo Advisors has some practical advice: Even if the politicians can't do it, focus on the future for your own clients and do your best to block out the short-term chaos and "election noise," as literal or figurative as it may be.
Wells Fargo's new report, "What's at Stake for the Economy and Your Wallet: The Elections," suggests that advisors breathe into a paper bag for a while (or turn off the TV) and consider the realistic notion that stocks will likely show better return potential than fixed income, over time.
Yes, admits Stuart Freeman, the company's chief equity strategist, there are plenty of things to worry about, including slow economic growth, Europe's ongoing economic meltdown and the prospect of massive, post-election tax increases, the so-called fiscal cliff. But he has high hopes for things to improve.
"Should new Fed and European Union quantitative easing programs materialize, we expect the S&P could move toward the top end of the range prior to year-end," he writes in the report - meaning the index might toe its way towards 1,400 or more.
Will that gigantic jump in taxes occur if either winning party is unable to get consensus on a way to extend or modify the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts? Wells Fargo Advisors chief macro strategist Gary Thayer writes that Congress has a very small window available to postpone the sudden fiscal cliff, but also says that leaders can't simply go on extending the issues forever and must take action, soon.
What have the candidates, by the way, said about their own aspirations for America's retirement future, and the retirement industry? Precious little, as the focus continues to be on the President's record of the last four years.
The Democratic Party platform, discussed at length this week in North Carolina, contains only a single mention of the word "pension," noted one slightly right-leaning website. In 2008, pensions were a bigger issue, with a platform that included plans to create an automatic workplace pension system and promises to protect America's existing pension and retirement plans.
The president has carried forward those proposals, with hopes that a new fusion-styled pension plan might be able to be created, not unlike the hybrid system suggested by Sen. Tom Harkin and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The Washington Post noted that a basic ideological gap exists on the pension issue, as well: public sector employees in Democratic-run states have better pension protections than private sector employees, but the private workers contribute the taxes that help pay for the public employees - and as has been seen in Illinois and California, those public systems are in desperate need of financial assistance and reform.
The Republican Party platform, on the other hand, turned its few mentions of retirement issues into attacks on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and a concern that ongoing pension bailouts by the federal agency will add to its $26 billion deficit. They asked for a presidential panel to look into the PBGC's current holdings.