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Survey Reveals Worry, Confusion—and Opportunities

I n January 1997, 1,000 people, aged 30 to 59, were interviewed by phone on a variety of financial planning concerns. Some of the results presented here are compared with earlier surveys. Barton Francis, CPA, PFS, a partner of Ernst & Young and chairman of the recent American Institute of CPAs personal financial planning conference, commented on what these trends reveal about financial planning attitudes. He also discussed opportunities for CPA financial planners. (Francis, the AICPA, and the firm were not involved in collecting data or organizing this survey, however.)

Francis advised CPAs to look over these results and consider how they reflect their clients situations. "Qualified CPAs would be doing a great service to their clients by bringing up these issues and helping clients develop solutions to their problems."

"The increasing number of people who cite making ends meet as their greatest financial concern shows that many are adjusting to the possibility of unexpected layoffs. With respect to retirement and investment planning, companies are shifting responsibility for retirement savings from traditional plans to 401(k)s, and I think the 7-percentage point rise is a good sign. It shows the population has a higher level of interest, which should lead to increased knowledge."

"Will employees be more responsible now that they have more choices? You have to hope that increased interest and concern convert into knowledge and action. Employee education and advising on 401(k) options are two of the greatest opportunities for CPAs to provide value-added services."

"Since all professionals are lumped together, I think the reduced reliance on professionals may show a distrust of commission-based advisers. Opportunities exist for independent, objective advisers who are not out to sell products. I think people turn to friends and relatives because theyre just overwhelmed with information. An objective, qualified CPA can be of great help here."

"The baby boomers have moved from the free-spending 1980s to the asset-accumulating 1990s. Theyre aging."

"This big jump occurred as people recognized the high cost of long-term care and other needs of the elderly."

"Compare this with the 82% who claim they expect to have enough in retirement. This shows a lot of mixed feelings and confusion. There is clearly a need for counseling and education."

"This is confusing. They expect to have money but fear they wont. CPAs should help clients focus on managing the long-term risk of not having enough money, and prevent clients from focusing on what the markets are doing today. The goal is not how much you make today; its having enough at the end of the game."

"This is scary. One in four thinks he or she will have to cut back during retirement? Again, planning is essential."

"This is interesting. Older workers may find it necessary to continue working. The boomers havent been that great at saving and Social Security is becoming weaker; working may be essential to their financial well-being. Also, employers may realize that workers in their 60s and 70s are an underused resource and hire them in greater numbers than previously."

"Thats a big spread! Compare it with the mere 17% who said paying for a college education was a top financial concern. The respondents may not seem terribly concerned about education, but they should be."

Source: Prepared for Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co., Hartford, Connecticut, by Yankelovich Partners. More information is available on Phoenixs Web site at .


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