This might not come as a surprise to students of retirement, but it does shed light on the need for Americans of all ages to plan -- and preferably with the help of a financial planner who is a fiduciary and one who provides comprehensive holistic advice -- for their future.
Consider: Two-thirds of households have less than $100,000 saved for retirement, according to an election-night survey of more than 1,000 American voters released by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) in collaboration with research-led consulting firm, Heart+Mind Strategies.
The survey showed that despite the strong economy:
- More than 60% of working voters feel it's now harder to retire on time than it was five years ago (even though the market is up 56% over the past years);
- The majority (58%) predict it will remain difficult to retire on time five years from now; and
- While almost two-in-three (62%) are confident in their ability to maintain their savings as they transition to retirement, less than half (45%) think their savings will last them through retirement.
The silver lining? According to the CFP Board, today's political climate and the current state of affairs in our country is positively impacting Americans' perspective when it comes to managing their finances, with one-in-three saying they are now much more proactive about setting and following a financial plan.
They better given this fact: "By 2060, there will be more than 98 million Americans who are 65 or older," Kevin Keller, chief executive officer of the CFP Board, said in a press release. "People are also living longer than ever before. In many cases, retired Americans will need to support themselves for 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years, meaning people need to save earlier, save more and be better prepared for the financial challenges of retirement.
The other bit of good news from the survey:
- While many consumers aren't working with a financial adviser, 60% of consumers are likely to work with an advisor for their retirement needs.
- 82% of consumers want a financial adviser who can provide a comprehensive plan that takes their holistic financial situation into consideration.
In a Retirement Daily podcast, Keller discussed the CFP Board's survey and implications for those planning for or living in retirement.
One surprise: Nearly seven in 10 (69%) of the Gen X generation -- those born from 1965 to 1980 -- who, "arguably, are in their most crucial retirement savings years, say that things today are making it harder for them to be able to retire on time. And 65% of baby boomers feel the same way.
One recurring theme had to do with the differences between genders. For instance, 69% of females say it will be harder to retire on time today versus five years ago. By contrast, 53% of males say it will be harder.
Why is that? According to Keller, there are several reasons for this lack of confidence. Women, on average, live five years longer than men. (Life expectancy at birth is 81.3 years for females versus 76.5 for males, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) That means they'll need more money to fund their longer lives.
Another is women have sometimes saved less for retirement, said Keller. "There's a wage gap between men and women's earnings, and they may have prioritized their needs in ways different than men have along the investing horizon," he said. And then finally, their Social Security benefits -- given the wage gap and given the possibility of women taking time off for career breaks -- are going to be lower than those of males.
All of that speaks to the value of "having a financial plan," said Keller, noting that financial planning plays an important role in retirement planning and achieving lifelong goals. "Financial planning can help maximize your probability of meeting those goals," he said. "We can't guarantee, but certainly with a plan, you're more likely to get there."
Keller also said the most important benefit of financial planning is, in addition to planning for the more secure future, this: that people who have a plan and are working with a planner are more confident today. "They know where they are," he said. "They know what they're doing, and that confidence today is a real benefit." (FYI: You can search for and select a certified financial planner at these websites: Letsmakeaplan.org and Planneresearch.org.)
Despite the benefits of having a financial plan and a financial planner, the CFP Board research showed that a good many Americans do not use nor do they plan to use a financial planner. Among those surveyed, 28% currently work with a financial planner; 14% don't but did in the past and 58% have never worked with a planner. Of those who have never worked with a planner or who did and don't know, just 7% are very likely and 29% somewhat likely to do so in the future.
Still, there was conflicting data. For instance, more than half (59%) express interest in engaging with a financial planner to help them prepare for retirement. And despite that interest, most folks only start planning for retirement five or 10 years before retirement. "So that's a big problem that we see," said Keller. "And so that conflict, I think, just only exacerbates a problem if somebody hasn't started planning for retirement. If you wait for the last. Time can cure a lot of mistakes. And we've all made those financial mistakes. So, time can cure that, but you have to start as soon as possible."
Another surprising finding had to do with millennials. Millennials -- those born 1981 -- 1996 -- often get a bad rap when it comes to all things money. But that generation, at least according to the CFP Board research, has its eye on the prize.
For instance, 75% of millennials are confident in their ability to navigate their finances through the ups and downs of the economy (e.g., market volatility, rising interest rates, etc.). And that was a higher percent than other generations.
What's more, two-thirds of millennials are confident in their ability to retire on time, two-thirds are confident that they know how to protect their accumulated retirement savings when they transition to retirement; and two-thirds are confident they will have enough income and assets to last comfortably throughout their retirement years.
Plus, 63% say they are likely to work with a financial planner in the future. By contrast, 73% of baby boomers -- those born 1946 to 1964 -- are unlikely to work with a financial planner. And 75% of millennials want to work with a financial planner who looks at their whole financial situation not just one area.
Why are millennials so different? Keller speculated that millennials have "seen the mistakes that the generations before them have experienced."
Other findings of note from the CFP Board research: Nearly four in five voters agree that financial advisers should always work in their best interest, as a fiduciary, when providing financial planning and advice. And many would look to a financial adviser for a comprehensive financial plan.
"Frequently, people, they might have somebody that they work with on insurance, and somebody they work with on investments," said Keller. "But they should have somebody in their life who is working, who is looking across to all sectors of their financial life."
Keller's advice for those searching for and selecting a financial planner: Ask the adviser: Will you commit to working in my best interest? And will you do that all the time? "Because sometimes people put on one hat when they're creating the plan, and that fiduciary hat, as we call it, comes off when they go to implement that plan," he said.
Keller also noted -- as have others -- that those looking for a career might consider financial planning. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of personal financial advisers is projected to grow 14.9% from 2016 to 2026. "Demographic trends are influencing this fast growth," the BLS noted in a recent report. "As the population continues to age and a substantial percentage approaches retirement age, the demand for financial (specifically, retirement) planning will increase." Read more here.
It's never too late -- or too early -- to plan and invest for the retirement you deserve. Get more information and a free trial subscription to TheStreet's Retirement Daily to learn more about saving for and living in retirement. Got questions about money, retirement and/or investments? Email Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com.