Americans Worry About Finances, but Just 1 in 3 Work With Advisor

Northwestern Mutual poll finds 66% of individuals lack financial plan, though many recognize its value

Adults 60 and older are three times as likely as those ages 18 to 29 to use an advisor, Northwestern Mutual says. Adults 60 and older are three times as likely as those ages 18 to 29 to use an advisor, Northwestern Mutual says.

Americans say their financial health is a top priority, yet only a minority work with a financial advisor or have a financial plan, a recent poll funded by Northwestern Mutual finds. Plus, some 60% say their financial planning needs improvement.

Of the roughly 2,100 Americans surveyed earlier this year, 43% say their physical health is their most important concern, while 38% say their personal financial situation is a “top priority.” (These priorities come in ahead of the desire to spend time with family and friends, 31%, and focus on their careers, 15%.)

Despite these responses, 66% of those surveyed do not have a financial plan in place. Of the 31% of adults that say they have financial plans, slightly more than half developed such plans with a financial advisor. Furthermore, only three out of every 10 adults is working with a financial advisor, the survey says.

"People recognize the need for improvement, yet most are choosing to make important financial decisions entirely on their own," said Greg Oberland, president of Northwestern Mutual in a statement about the group’s 2014 Planning and Progress Study. 

"In the same way that most people wouldn't hesitate to see a doctor, or even work with a personal trainer, we believe more Americans need to see their finances in a similar light,” Oberland explained. “While finance is obviously different than health, both are highly complicated and have long-term implications. As a result, expert advisors are critical."

Of the roughly 30% of adults working with advisors, the majority, nearly 70%, consider themselves disciplined planners and feel “very financially secure.”

Adults who are 60 and older are three times as likely as those ages 18 to 29 to use an advisor: 41% versus 13%, the poll shows. In addition, individuals with $100,000 or more of investable assets are three times more likely to be working with an advisor than others.

According to the study, a large majority of American adults, 70%, think the U.S. economy will experience future crises, and that a financial plan can help them weather the ups and downs, 52%. Only two in five, though, believe their financial plans can withstand market cycles.

"Remember that financial planning is not a 'set-it-and-forget-it' exercise, and while it's encouraging that many Americans are engaged on a regular basis, I'm hopeful those numbers will increase as more people see the benefits of a disciplined approach to long-term planning," Oberland added. 

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