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TheStreet.com - Fund Watch 2
Presidential Portfolio Makeover: Reform Party Candidate Patrick J. Buchanan
What other candidate would hoard gold and put only 8.5% in stocks?
By K.C. Swanson
Next month, Americans (those that vote, in any event) will head to the polls to choose a new chief executive. The major candidates and their running mates are pledging to steward the nation through continued prosperity and fiscal health. To determine which candidate is best suited to run the nation's fiscal engine, TheStreet.com examined how the candidates handle their own financial houses and huddled with professional financial planners. The planners had some advice for the candidates on how to improve their portfolios. So this week, we're running the advisers' presidential portfolio makeovers of the major candidates, as well as the Republican and Democratic vice presidential contenders. We examined Democrat Al Gore's portfolio Monday, Republican candidate George W. Bush's Tuesday and Green Party hopeful Ralph Nader's Wednesday. Today we examine the holdings of Reform Party headliner Patrick J. Buchanan .
Consider this very relevant detail about Patrick J. Buchanan: While other investors have spent the past couple of years boning up on fiber optics or chatting up the prospects of Internet infrastructure outfits, he has been industriously stockpiling a small fortune in that totem of yesteryear, the treasure of the Incas and Ashanti kings: gold.
"I'm not sure what's up with the gold," says Brent Kessel, a certified financial planner in Santa Monica, Calif., who examined Buchanan's portfolio. "Perhaps it's left over from his Y2K fears. No one is predicting runaway inflation, and even if that happened, his cash, real estate and muni bonds would do fine."
"I haven't seen clients with a stake like that in probably 10 years," says Joel Framson, a certified financial planner and CPA at Glowacki Framson Financial Advisors in Los Angeles. Though investors may occasionally stash 5% to 15% of their assets in real estate for an inflation hedge, he calls the gold strategy "really a throwback." (New Year's Eve 1999, were Buchanan's closets not bulging with beef jerky and sterile syringes?)
Buchanan may have excellent reasons for holding hard currency, given that his vision for this country's future appears to involve a twilight-of-the-gods-style shootout. "I believe, and I hope, that one day we can take America back," he confided to followers this September at Bob Jones University . "That is why we are building this Gideon's army, and heading for Armageddon, to do battle for the Lord."
Given those concerns, his conservative risk profile is understandable. "This is the portfolio of someone who's expecting a major market crash, something between '73-'74 and the Great Depression," Kessel says.
Besides his 6% stake in gold, Buchanan's assets are made up of 46% bonds, 22.5% cash, 17% real estate and 8.5% stocks.
Those allocations don't fly with Framson, who recommends hiking the equities portion to at least 50%. "For someone who wants to be president, this is a very un-American portfolio," says Framson. "With the greatest companies in the world producing the greatest economy ever in the history of our country, which should produce the type of government surpluses politicians kill for, this portfolio shouts: 'I don't believe in the potential of this country to grow.'"
"Especially for someone who wants to be the leader of the free world," Framson points out, "you have to embrace free-market capitalism."
What stocks Buchanan does own are heavily concentrated in telecom. Notwithstanding his spoken appreciation for all things industrial, he holds only one railroad stock, Burlington Northern (NYSE: BNI - news) , and two oil and gas outfits, Burlington Resources (NYSE: BR - news) and El Paso Energy (NYSE: EPG - news) . His eight telecom stocks include Lucent (NYSE: LU - news) , AT&T (NYSE: T - news) and SBC Communications (NYSE: SBC - news) .
"Mr. Buchanan's stock choices look something like a telecommunications industry sector fund," says Kessel. "I would advise him to diversify the [money] he has in stocks among a much larger group of equities, preferably including small-cap, value and" -- gasp! -- "foreign stocks. Even for a patriot like Pat, it makes sense to own European and Asian stocks for the diversification benefits they provide."
Framson estimates Buchanan has a net worth of about $6.1 million, with annual returns of 5% to 6%. "Because inflation is low, that's not bad," he says. "But when inflation is 3.5% or 4%, on an after-tax basis, he's barely, if at all, keeping up with inflation." Between 8% and 9% would be a more reasonable target for returns, he says. Pumping up the equities portion of the portfolio would help achieve that goal.
So all in all, it sounds like Buchanan's got some work to do, right? Wrong, says Framson. He thinks Buchanan's portfolio deserves an A -- measured against the benchmark of other reactionaries. Why hold Buchanan to any other standard, he figures. "Buchanan is what he purports to be. He's 100% consistent. He has a perfectly balanced reactionary portfolio."
-- (2000@Presidential.campaign), October 30, 2000