When The News Is Bad, Survey Finds Demand For Advice Grows

By

Bad news is shaking consumer confidence and making financial advice more valuable to the average investor, research from the Financial Planning Association, Atlanta, suggests.

Sixty-three percent of Americans do not feel that Americas financial, government and regulatory systems “protect people like me” against investment losses and accounting fraud, the nationwide survey of 1,015 adults found.

The unease expressed in the regulatory net was coupled with the finding that a sizable 31% of those surveyed do not believe that they will ever again feel confident in their financial prospects.

That finding was slightly tempered by the finding in the September survey that 58% of those polled are “somewhat” or “not very” confident in their financial future.

A total of 34% of women and 46% of men were “very confident” in their financial future.

The study found that three in 10 consumers are more likely to seek financial help than a year ago. The figure reaches 35% for those in households with incomes of at least $50,000.

For certified public accountants and financial planners, that is good news, an FPA focus group follow-up indicated. Those two professional groups led the pack in consumer trust. On a scale of one (very negative) to five (very positive), accountants had the most favorable rating at 3.6, followed by personal bankers with a 3.4; financial planners with a 3.2; life or disability insurance agents close behind with a 3.1; estate planning lawyers with a 3.0; and, stockbrokers with a 2.7.

When respondents were asked to offer their impressions of a life or disability insurance agent, the results were similar to a bell curve. Fourteen percent rated agents as very positive with a 5 rating; 19%, a 4 rating; 33%, a 3 rating; 16%, a 2 rating; and, 11%, a 1, or very negative rating. Approximately 8% answered that they did not know how they perceived agents.

The topic of designations were also covered in the survey. When asked which professional designations respondents were familiar with, 41% offered the CPA mark as an answer; 9%, the JD mark; 8%, the CFA mark; 7%, the CFP mark; 4%, the CLU mark; and, 3%, the ChFC mark.

When respondents were asked about the CLU designation, 13% said that they were very/somewhat familiar; 79%, were not familiar; and 8% did not know.

And, finally, when asked what professional respondents would pick for professional financial planning, 48% chose a CPA; 4%, a CFP; 4%, a CFA; 3%, a J.D.; 2%, a CLU; 1%, a ChFC; and 37%, did not know.

The survey did not distinguish between fee only and fee and commission financial planning advice, according to Robert Barry, FPA president.

Barry spoke of the need for financial planning advice during a press briefing to discuss the survey results.

He noted that financial planning tools such as financial calculators may offer value to consumers but true comprehensive financial planning that goes beyond “$400 financial plans” and beyond viewing financial planning as holding assets under management, offers real value.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 21, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.