Those who work with an advisor tend to have higher incomes, larger families, more grey hair and more financial security.

Americans rank their personal finances as the second highest priority, just behind their health, according to a new survey.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company discloses this finding in its “2014 Planning and Progress Study: Priorities Among Americans.” The survey polled 2,092 U.S. Americans via Web panel to examine their personal goals and objectives, including progress toward achieving financial security.

Among top priorities for 2014, U.S. adults place “personal finances” (38 percent) second only to “personal health” (43 percent), but ahead of time spent with family/friends (31 percent) and career (15 percent), the survey reveals.

Sixty percent of U.S. adults say their financial planning “could use improvement.” Among them, lack of time is cited as the biggest obstacle to improved planning (27 percent).

The adults surveyed are mostly pessimistic about the national economy:

  • 70 percent of Americans feel that the economy will experience future crises and that they need a financial plan to help them weather the ups-and-downs (52 percent);
  • 40 percent are confident their financial plan can withstand market cycles, while one-third feel the economy will be better this year than it was in 2013;
  • 31 percent have developed a written financial plan, with half having done so with the help of an advisor;
  • Most plans have been created fairly recently (within the last 5 years), suggesting the need for Americans to determine their financial goals earlier; and
  • Most plans are reviewed either quarterly (25 percent) or annually (30 percent), but a fairly substantial percentage (7 percent) have never viewed their plans since creating them.

Roughly three in 10 adults work with a financial advisor. Those who do:

  • Are focused and more financially secure – Sixty-nine percent consider themselves disciplined planners and 68 percent feel financially very secure;
  • Have higher incomes – Adults making $100,000 annually or more are nearly three times as likely to use an advisor over those earning less than $50,000 per year (42 percent versus 15 percent);
  • Have more grey hair – Americans aged 60 and older are three times as likely as those aged 18-29 to use an advisor (41 percent versus 13 percent); and
  • Have larger families – Those who are married or living with their partner are twice as likely as those not married to use an advisor (33 percent versus 17 percent), and parents are more likely to enlist the services of a professional financial advisor than those without children (34 percent versus 20 percent).

See also: Northwestern Mutual boasts increases in revenue, surplus