Presidential candidates always promise economic improvements that are beyond their power to deliver. Any measures that actually could create more jobs, raise wages or lower tax burdens require the cooperation of Congress or business cycles or both.
Even if a president could lead us to the promised land of rising incomes and wealth, we wouldn’t get there overnight.
That doesn’t mean you have to wait. It does mean you should do what you can to improve your own personal fortunes rather than wait for some politician to bail you out.
The limited economic power of presidents means you shouldn’t sabotage your finances by making big financial moves if the “wrong” candidate wins.
Instead, here’s what you might do instead of waiting or panicking:
Get a raise. Median incomes increased 5.2 percent in 2015, the biggest gain since the U.S. Census Bureau began keeping records in 1967. If your income hasn’t increased, it might be time to ask for a raise or look for a better job. With unemployment at 5 percent, your prospects are likely better than when joblessness peaked at 10 percent in October 2009.
Contribute to a retirement plan. A comfortable retirement requires investing year in and year out, regardless of who is president. If you don’t have a workplace plan, you can make deductible contributions to an individual retirement account. Several providers, including Ameritrade, Betterment, E-Trade, Fidelity, Merrill Edge and Vanguard, allow you to open IRAs with no minimum investment.
Ditch toxic debt. It’s a myth that most Americans carry credit card debt. If you are among the 42.1 percent of U.S. adults who don’t always pay off your balance, it’s time to start. If you have good credit scores, you can qualify for low-rate balance transfer offers that can help you pay off your debt faster. Another good option could be a personal loan that offers a fixed rate and fixed payments to pay off your debt in three or four years.
Build some equity. More than 3 million homes are still worth less than their mortgage, according to research by CoreLogic. Thirty percent of people entering retirement age still owed money on their homes in 2013, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis. A paid-off home not only reduces your expenses in retirement, but also serves as an asset you can tap for income if needed. So once you have paid off toxic debt and are on track for retirement, consider making extra principal payments to get your mortgage paid off faster.
Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and columnist at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.