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‘Self-Directed’ Investors Lying to Themselves

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Many investors consider themselves self-directed, but research from Hearts & Wallets shows they aren’t actually going it alone.

A report released Wednesday found that although more people said they manage their own investments now than two years ago, they’re taking a “general contractor” approach by using online and paid advice to help direct their thinking.

In the most recent survey, 46% of respondents said they used online content as a source of investment advice and information, followed by 45% who said they use a paid advisor. Both categories are up 21% over 2012. The report also found 45% of respondents go to their employer for information and advice.

Chris Brown, Hearts & Wallets partner and co-founder, called “pure self-direction” among investors “a fantasy,” but he stressed that advisors not belittle investors’ need for control.

“Consumer preference for feeling they alone are in control is real and should be respected, but — outside of the select cadre of consumers sincerely devoted to keeping costs low through self-reliance — the actual behavior is that many influencers affect consumer decisions in investing and saving for retirement. The big jump in the number of advice sources in the past two years illustrates this point.”

Investors who were just starting out or in the early stages of their careers used more sources of information before making a decision: an average eight sources, according to the report, including professionals and others.

Interestingly, young investors’ use of multiple sources makes them more similar to investors with at least $500,000 than those with just $100,000, who use only 6.4 sources on average.

Brown said “smart consumers double- or triple-check sources of advice and information.” Partner and co-founder Laura Varas agreed that investors aren’t choosing between an advisor and online advice.

“It’s a misconception that investors want either technology or a human advisor,” she said in a statement. “These are not substitutes for each other; engaged consumers of investing and retirement services like both financial professionals and technology, in the same way that dessert-lovers like both cake and pie. Empower investors by providing access to both, ideally in an integrated way.”

— Check out 3 Reasons Robo-Advisors Are Taking Off on ThinkAdvisor.


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