The results of a new survey were released a few weeks ago at the AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference. It concluded that retirement savings is a key concern for Americans and that life decisions are in limbo because of finances. According to the survey, having enough money to retire and to pay for major life needs such as healthcare and education are at the top of the list of concerns for Americans. In fact, the AICPA says that in response to an open-ended question, nine out of 10 CPAs surveyed said their individual clients were concerned about retirement and that costs associated with healthcare and education were ranked by respondents as the second (59 percent) and third (47 percent) financial concerns of clients. “Many Baby Boomers are discovering their retirement kitty is not as big as it needs to be to fund a comfortable retirement and that they are going to have to work longer than they had intended,” says James Metzler, AICPA vice president. By the way, respondents included CPAs who hold the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential. The survey also revealed that nearly a third of the respondents (32 percent) reported that clients who are approaching retirement age are postponing leaving the workforce for financial reasons. Also, as many as one-third of CPAs with clients between the ages of 25 and 34 are seeing individuals foregoing buying a home, having children, and even saving for retirement. Moreover, one third of the CPA planners say their clients were carrying more credit card debt than they did five years ago, with excessive discretionary spending pinpointed as the primary culprit. The median level of increased credit card dent is $8,333. “With so many people in debt because of unnecessary spending, Americans of all ages need education and guidance about how to improve their financial well-being,” notes Carl George, chair of the Institute’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. Actually, three years ago, the AICPA launched the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy effort, which has a dedicated consumer Website (www.360financialliteracy,.org) containing hundreds of tools and resources to help Americans improve their financial understanding. A related campaign, Feed the Pig (www.FeedthePig.org) is designed to help Americans aged 25-34 save for long-term financial security. It should be noted that the survey was conducted this past December via a questionnaire mailed to members of the AICPA Financial Planning Membership Section. Of the respondents, some 44 percent manage more than $10 million in assets.
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