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Have You Researched Your Car More Than Your Portfolio?

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A majority of affluent Americans are highly engaged in most aspects of their lives, but a significant number are not actively engaged in their portfolios, according to a new study released Wednesday by Charles Schwab.

Koski Research in mid-April surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of Schwab. Respondents ranged in age from 25 to 75, had $250,000 or more in investable assets and were mainly clients of large, national brokerage firms.

They were also highly engaged in their lives. Respondents said it was important for parents to be active in their children’s education (88%), thought hard work made the country great (74%) and conducted their own research before making major purchases (86%) or on health concerns (67%). Only 4% would let a professional make decisions without their involvement.

The study found that 61% of respondents were actively involved in their investment portfolios, while 39% said they were not actively engaged.

All survey respondents exhibited similarly tenacious attitudes and behaviors in their lives, but numerous differences emerged between those who were engaged in investing and those who were not.

Of the more engaged, 72% reviewed their portfolio every month, but only 37% of the less engaged did. Sixty-one percent of the former took time to understand available investment products, while 23% did not.

And 57% of the more engaged changed their portfolio in response to life changes; just 31% of the less engaged did so.

Focusing specifically on the group less engaged in investing, the study found attitudes and behaviors that were inconsistent with this group’s general level of engagement in life. Seventy-six percent said they took charge in their lives and wouldn’t have it any other way, yet just 33% thought  it was very important to be engaged with investing, and 94% called themselves planners, but only 38% actually had a financial plan.

Interestingly, the Schwab study found that in contrast to their behavior in other aspects of their lives, both groups were less engaged in certain areas of investing, including how they interacted with professionals (among those with a primary investment professional).

These discrepancies are more pronounced among the less engaged group:

  • 86% of the more engaged investors (78% of the less engaged) conducted research before making major purchases, whereas 61% (50%) had questioned their investment professional’s investment recommendations
  • 83% (84%) examined ingredients in food before buying it, but only 21% (16%) examined fees in detail with their investment professional
  • 69% (65%) had called a company to better understand a bill, but just 18% (12%) had reviewed how fees and commissions affected their returns
  • 67% (64%) had called a service provider to ask about better service or lower rates, whereas only 12% (8%) had had a detailed conversation about how their investment professional was compensated.

“In our opinion, the financial services industry, especially traditional Wall Street brokerage firms, has made investing too complex, opaque, and inflexible, all of which we believe create roadblocks for engagement,” John Clendening, executive vice president and co-head of Schwab Investor Services, said in a statement.

“We’ve seen an influx of new clients who are increasingly engaged and demanding clarity, choice, and control across all areas of their lives. We’re squarely focused on serving these needs, and we encourage others firms to do a better job of delivering information, products and services on these terms to build investing engagement.”


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