Six in 10 U.S. adults say their financial planning “needs improvement."

Seven in 10 Americans who describe themselves as “highly disciplined” planners feel more financially secure than compatriots who are less rigorous in pursuing financial objectives.

So concludes Northwestern Mutual in the company’s annual 2014 Planning and Progress Study. Based on an online survey of 2,092 Americans ages 18 and older, the research examines, among other objectives, Americans’ progress toward meeting financial security objectives, attitudes about money and financial decision-making and perspectives on working with a financial advisor.

The report reveals that 51 percent of Americans who describe themselves as “disciplined” planners — individuals who have drafted goals and plans to meet them, but deviate at times from the objectives — feel “very secure” financially. Smaller percentages who feel equally secure financially include survey respondents who are “informal planners” who have financial goals but don’t know how to meet them (34 percent); and nonplanners who haven’t established goals (17 percent).

The study adds that 91 percent of disciplined planners are more likely than others to say they are happy in retirement. This compares with 86 percent, 83 percent and 63 percent, respectively, among discipline planners, informal planners and nonplanners.

Intriguingly, young adults ages 18-39 (59 percent) and those over age 60 (54 percent) are more likely to describe themselves as “highly disciplined planners” than those ages 40 to 59 (49 percent). Conversely, a majority of middle-age people (51 percent) are informal planners as compared to 41 percent and 46 percent, respectively, of young adults and those over age 60.

The research adds that six in 10 U.S. adults say their financial planning “needs improvement.” Among the reasons they identify for not having a financial plan:

  • Not enough time/lack of time – 27 percent;
  • Don’t know where to find help – 20 percent;
  • Not enough interest – 19 percent;
  • Find it too confusing – 18 percent; and
  • Other – 18 percent.