Roughly half of Americans don’t know where to turn when they need financial advice and support, Northwestern Mutual reported Tuesday.

This finding was based on an online survey conducted in early February by Harris Poll of 2,646 U.S, adults, including an oversample of 620 interviews with millennials. 

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they did not have a trusted advisor who offered comprehensive lifetime financial planning.

Among Americans with a financial plan, 82% believed it should be reviewed at least semiannually, and 36% said reviews should take place once a month or more often.

Yet 62% of respondents said they did not have a financial advisor of any kind.

Among those who did work with a professional, just 56% said their current or primary advisor helped them understand their complete financial picture.

And only slightly more than 40% of respondents felt their advisor had a long-term commitment and provided tailored attention.

Thirty-two percent of those surveyed reported that they worked with more than one financial advisor for different parts of their financial lives, such as investments, insurance and retirement planning.

Northwestern Mutual’s president, Gregory Oberland, said the findings were reminder to the industry that those they serve need strong partners as much as they need robust products. 

“To be a great partner, it requires a deep knowledge of people’s complete financial pictures, a genuine interest in developing relationships that last a lifetime, and the tools and expertise to develop comprehensive long-term plans,” Oberland said. 

‘American Dream’

Northwestern Mutual’s study found that 66% of U.S. adults believed that they could attain the “American dream,” while only 16% felt it was out of reach. 

That said, 31% of respondents noted that their definition of the American dream had changed in the last five years, and 57% said their view was different from their parents’ view.

Fifty-nine percent rated having a happy family life as the American dream’s defining characteristic, and 58% said it was being financially secure.

Significantly fewer respondents mentioned more traditional notions, such as having more opportunities than their parents or moving up in social class.

The research also showed that notwithstanding optimism about achieving the American dream, 29% of Americans did not feel financially secure in the present.

And a mere 21% said they were bringing high levels of discipline to their financial planning.  A third considered themselves “disciplined” planners, and another third called themselves “informal.”

Twelve percent reported that they “do not plan at all” and “have not set any financial goals.”

Oberland said it was important for people to understand that financial security requires serious planning, professional help and strong discipline over a long period of time.  “By not taking action, they risk making the long road to financial security even longer.”

— Check out Can Digital Advice Fill Advisor Gap for Small Investors? on ThinkAdvisor.