Preparing for retirement and managing income while in retirement are among the top issues confronting American consumers, according to a new survey, but despite those concerns, the majority of households lack a written financial plan.
The survey of 1,742 consumers by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards found that 51 percent cited the need to build a retirement fund as one of their most important financial concerns. Managing retirement income was cited in 40 percent of the responses. Other top pressing issues for consumers were generating current income (59 percent), providing health insurance coverage (55 percent) and managing or reducing current debt (53 percent).
Despite the personal finance concerns cited by respondents, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) did not have a written financial plan in place. Only 17 percent indicated that they have a written plan in place and update the plan regularly.
Those consumers who do have a written financial plan in place feel strongly about the benefits of having a plan. Among those consumers who have developed a plan without the assistance of a financial professional, 48 percent said they benefited from the written plan.
The recognized benefits of having a plan increases significantly for consumers who used the services of a financial adviser to develop a plan, with 65 percent of those individuals saying a written plan is beneficial.
Clearly, those consumers who have a financial plan in place have a higher degree of confidence that their finances are in order, said CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller in a statement. These people believe that the intervention of a financial planner positively influences their ability to achieve their financial goals.
The goals that motivated consumers to seek professional assistance differed according to the respondents education level. For example, among households that have a written financial plan in place, 17 percent of individuals whose formal education ended before or during high school cited the need for retirement planning. Of those who attended, but did not complete, college, 22 percent cited retirement planning. Of those who completed college, 61 percent cited retirement goals.
The goals that motivated consumers to seek professional assistance also varied by the respondents income level. Savings was the most frequently cited financial planning need among those making $50,000 or less a year (24 percent). In contrast, among those earning $50,000 to $100,000 a year, retirement planning was cited by 48 percent of the respondents, and savings goals was cited by 47 percent.
Those people who used a financial professional when developing their written financial plan put a premium on ethics and practice standards (89 percent and 87 percent, respectively), as well as enforcement of those standards (80 percent). All survey respondents had high recognition of those financial intermediaries who hold credentials representing high ethical and practice standards that are actively enforced. Respondents had the greatest awareness of those identified as CPAs. CFP certification had the next greatest level of awareness, at 28 percent.
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