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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Financial Planning Is Like a Medical Checkup, Americans Say

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U.S. adults are not enamored of financial planning — at least, not most of them — although they regard it as something that needs to be done, like a medical checkup.

So says new research from Northwestern Mutual, which also found that while 40% of Americans say it’s necessary but not their favorite, another 40% actually have a range of negative emotions about planning.

The 2018 Planning & Progress Study enumerated those negative emotions as “worried, nervous about confronting the financial details of my life (17%)”; “prefer to not deal with it until I absolutely have no choice (9%)”; “frustrated, annoyed with my financial situation (9%)”; and “skeptical about the value of planning (5%).”

A surprising 18%, however, say they are “excited and inspired, love to do it.”

And 70% say their financial planning needs improvement.

That shows when they respond to the question of what type of financial planner they are, with the single most common answer being “informal.” While 16% say they’re “highly disciplined” — they know their goals, have a plan to meet them and rarely stray from the plan — they’re in the minority, but so are the 14% who say they are “not a planner” and have established no goals at all.

A third say they’re “disciplined” — they have goals and plans to meet them, but don’t always stick with the plan. And 37% own up to the “informal planner” label, having a “general sense” of their goals and how to meet them but do not have a real plan.

The general attitude around financial planning could come from the 79% who agree that being financially responsible means “sticking to a budget and never deviating.” Not exactly the most cheerful — or doable — prospect for most people.

A sizeable chunk, 34%, — say they’ve never talked to anyone about financial planning, yet the top five obstacles to financial security in retirement are lack of savings (48%); health care costs (48%); the economy (35%); lack of planning (29%); and Social Security uncertainty (29%).

“Even if the intention is there, it can be hard to take action,” Emily Holbrook, director of planning at Northwestern Mutual, said in the report.

Holbrook added, “But we go back to what people told us in the study — they see planning like they see medical checkups. It’s not something to neglect.”


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