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ATLANTA – Parallel with a rising stock market, Atlanta area investors are optimistic about the prospects for their portfolios, growth of the global and US economies, and their ability to reach their financial goals, although mortgage foreclosures remain a major factor in the market[1].


  • Eight in 10 Atlanta investors expect their investment portfolio to be “better” or “the same” (83%) at year-end and slightly more (87%) believe their financial well-being will be the same or better.


  • Investors are most bullish about their state economy (77% same or better). 60% of Atlanta HNW investors feel that the US economy will be the same or better by the end of 2013 and that 65% have the same outlook for the global economy.


  • Reflecting the housing crisis that ripped through their market, 64% of Atlanta investors say that foreclosures have affected their neighborhoods, far higher than the 43% reported nationally. Additionally, 11% of Atlanta HNW investors’ primary home mortgages are “under water” – nearly three times the national average of 4%.


  • Perhaps sensing opportunity, despite the foreclosure rate, Atlanta investors are fairly bullish on investing in real estate with 72% saying the timing is good to buy a primary residence, but fewer say that it is a good time to purchase a rental property (51%), a second home (45%).


  • Nearly three in ten investors believe real estate will be the best performing asset class over the next three years.


“I am pleased to report that Atlantans are confident in their current financial positions and expect to be better off, or at least in the same position, by the end of the year. Preservation of capital is key,” said Steve Austin, Regional Director for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, who is based in Atlanta. “However, it’s important to note there are underlying macro concerns both here and around the country with regard to reducing the national debt and dealing with problems overseas.”


Amid some signs of a national housing recovery, only 34% of investors sense improvement in the Atlanta housing market. The majority of Atlanta investors already own a primary home (97%), and in most cases with a mortgage (75%, higher than the 66% of all HNW investors nationwide). Perceptions of home pricing varies, as HNW investors say that prices have decreased (31%) as well as increased (34%).


What seems to be the most frequently mentioned concern of Atlanta investors is increased foreign conflicts (92%), the government budget deficit (91%) and prospects for the US economy (88%). Only after considering these macro concerns do personal concerns become prominent: 


  • a repeal or reduction in home mortgage deduction (84%);
  • the ability to afford quality health care (80%);
  • an increase in oil prices (80%); and
  • the possibility of high inflation in the future (80%).


Atlanta least bullish compared to other Metro areas


The poll, conducted on a national level with a special focus on eight major markets, found broad optimism among HNW investors around six key sentiment indicators: A majority believe that the 1.) global, 2.) national, and 3.) individual state economies will be better or the same at year-end compared with the first three months of 2013.


Investors are even more optimistic about their personal financial prospects, with clear majorities predicting that the 4.) investment climate, 5.) personal investment portfolios and 6.) overall financial well-being also will be better or the same at year-end.


With an over-sample of investors in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the results showed that Atlanta was the least bullish in aggregate (19 percentage points below the national average), followed by Houston (minus 12 percentage points) and Chicago (minus 11 percentage points).


In favor sectors: technology, energy, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology, healthcare;

In favor countries: U.S., China;

Out of favor sectors: Aerospace, Consumer Discretionary

Out of favor countries: Middle East and Russia.


Atlanta area investors see the technology (72% good), energy (69%), pharmaceuticals (69%), bio-technology (69%) and healthcare (65%) industries as having the best growth prospects over the next three years. At the same time, though, aerospace (12% good) and consumer discretionary (15%) and insurance (27%) are seen as laggards. Looking at the global picture, these investors favor the U.S. (57% good) as having the best investment possibilities over the next three years, followed by China (47%), Brazil (40%), and India (40%). Atlanta investors will likely shy away from the Middle East (9% good), Eastern Europe (9%) and Russia (10%).


Investors want financial advice


Guidance, analysis and clear communications are the leading expectations for financial advisors among the 74% of investors who have one; financial advisors are even more prevalent among millionaires (83%).


  • 86% want clear communication on how assets can contribute to a retirement income stream;
  • 82% want guidance on their portfolio asset allocation;
  • 82% want guidance and resources on changes in the fed tax policy & exemptions;
  • 81% want analysis of the economy and potential portfolio impacts ;
  • 80% want downside portfolio protection;
  • 75% want new investment ideas, and
  • 74% want guidance on estate planning to minimize tax effects on assets passed to heirs.

Overall, investors possess long-term confidence. Similar to national poll figures, four in five Atlanta HNW investors (79%) are confident that they will achieve their long-term financial goals. As many (80%) of those not retired are also confident that they are on track in their retirement planning.


Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, a global leader, provides access to a wide range of products and services to individuals, businesses and institutions, including brokerage and investment advisory services, financial and wealth planning, banking and lending, cash management, annuities and insurance, retirement and trust services. 


Morgan Stanley is a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services.  The Firm's employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals from more than 1,200 offices in 43 countries.  For further information about Morgan Stanley, please visit www.morganstanley.com.

©2013 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.  Mem

[1] Survey Methods: as part of the national survey of 1,000 US investors, age 25 to 75, with $100,000 or more in investable household financial assets, an oversample of 301 Atlanta metro area investors were interviewed. Approximately one-third of those interviewed had $1 million or more in household financial assets. Poll conducted Jan. to March, 2013, by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.