Better informed consumers will be able to plan for retirement more effectively, says Mark A. Thresher, president of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc.

Speaking at the LOMA Financial Inforum conference in Kissimmee, Fla. this week, Thresher said financial advisors must encourage consumers to focus on their future in several ways.

First, they need to provide more education and information on debt and financial management to help individuals understand the importance of planning for the future, Thresher said.

Second, they should push elementary and secondary schools to introduce financial education into their curricula.

Third, they should stress the importance to consumers of seeking financial advice from experts rather than managing investments on their own behalf without consultation.

Thresher said he understands the education process will not be easy because consumers in general are not entirely aware of the predicament they face when retirement age arrives. He blamed their failure to save adequately on rampant consumerism, increasing health care costs, the shift from pension plans to contribution plans and the uncertainties of the Social Security system.