Brinker Capital, a leading investment management firm, has made public the results of its third quarter 2013 Brinker Barometer survey, a gauge of financial advisor confidence and sentiment regarding the economy, retirement savings, investing and market performance.

John Coyne, vice chairman, Brinker Capital, said: "It’s been a long time coming, but financial advisors are finally feeling good about the economy and their clients’ financial diagnosis for the future. In fact, our Barometer showed that 49% of financial intermediaries painted a rosy picture of America’s economic landscape, versus 26% in the same period a year ago. What’s particularly remarkable about this rise in confidence is that advisors were able to see beyond the then-looming government shutdown, and the country’s tarnished reputation on the international stage, to focus on the longer-term prospects for America’s economic future. It will be interesting to see how this level of sentiment holds up in the final quarter of 2013."

Among some of the Q3 2013 Brinker Barometer’s key findings:

Political Ponderings

Asked to name their number one concern, advisors looked towards the nation’s capital, with 61% of respondents saying ‘ineffective federal governance by both the administration and Congress.’ In far distant second place at 20%, advisors said ‘budget deficits,’ followed by ‘high unemployment’ at 12%.

America’s standing on the global stage took it squarely on the jaw, with 64% of advisors saying the country’s reputation is worse now than it was in the third quarter of 2012.

On a more positive note, there was consensus around who would be the best choice for Federal Reserve chief, with 48% of respondents picking Janet Yellen. Of note, the Brinker Barometer was fielded before President Obama nominated Dr. Yellen for the Fed chief role.

Dollars and Sense

When asked what changes they expect to make in their clients’ investment strategy over the next 10 years, 69% of advisors said they would focus more on ‘desired personal or purpose-driven investing outcomes.’ This is supported by a finding in the Q1 ’13 Barometer in which 87% of advisors noted it was more important to measure success against a client’s personal goals versus a standard benchmark.

Respondents also said they’re ‘sticking to their knitting,’ with 78% indicating they will not be recommending any changes to their clients’ retirement investing plans.

Market skepticism looms large when speaking with new clients, with 78% of respondents saying this is the greatest challenge to overcome when recommending an investment plan. Lack of investing knowledge (40%) and not wanting to pay investment fees for advice clients feel they can get for free from the Internet or other sources (29%) rounded out advisor sentiment.

In terms of asset classes in and out of favor with advisors, alternative investments is the front runner, with 57% of intermediaries noting they will allocate more to this asset class. Equities (54%) and international (46%) also are expected to see an uptick in allocations. In the out-of-favor column, 63% of respondents indicated they will allocate less to fixed income versus last year. Cash (28%) and emerging markets (14%) will also be allocated to less.