Presidential Elections and Long-Term Investments


John Micklitsch, CFA CAIA, President & Chief Investment Officer

U.S. presidential elections every four years are a significant event for the country and the world. Administration changes can usher in new laws and policy initiatives, not to mention a range of emotions and forecasts resulting from the outcome. When viewed through the lens of time, however, what does not change with each passing election is the innovation engine that is capitalism and the rewards it reaps for those who participate.

The following chart is a good visual aid for this topic. It depicts close to a century of presidential elections marked against the growth of $1,000 invested “in” the S&P 500 Index (hypothetically, as you cannot invest directly in an index). While the blue and red stripes alternate regularly, the growth of investment continues with no correlation as to the party that holds the White House. Capitalism remains the star of the show.

Growth of a hypothetical $1,000 investment in S&P 500 Index

Growth of a hypothetical $1,000 investment in S&P 500 Index
Sources: Capital Group, RIMES, Standard & Poor‘s. Chart shows the growth of a hypothetical $1k investment made on March 4, 1933 (the date of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration) through June 30, 2023. Dates of party control are based on inauguration dates. Values are based on total returns in USD. Shown on a logarithmic scale. Past results are not predictive of results in future periods. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance.

All of this is not to say that elections do not matter or that elections do not have consequences, they most certainly do. It is simply an early reminder heading into the 2024 election season to not let your emotions and feelings about the candidates derail your long-term investment planning. Warren Buffett likes to tell the story of how, because of capitalism, in the span of just one generation the American middle class now lives better than John D. Rockefeller did at the height of his wealth. While that kind of advancement may be a challenge to repeat, the next generation of Americans will have access to medical treatments, entertainment, and technology that no amount of money today can buy, because they have yet to be invented. Be patient and not reactionary with your investments this November so that you can benefit from the innovation that is yet to come. Your future self will thank you.

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