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Survey indicates few seek out financial planning help

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Despite a growing need to save for retirement, most Americans do not seek professional help with financial planning, according to a national opinion survey released by the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters & Chartered Financial Consultants.

The survey showed that 63 percent of Americans rely only on themselves, friends, family members or business associates for financial planning advice, a dangerous trend, according to the experts. Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) do not even check their thinking with friends and family.

The decision to manage finances and invest without professional help generally increases with age. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents in the critical pre-retirement years of ages 55 to 64 rely only on their own knowledge. Males (43 percent) more than females (35 percent) tend to fly solo.

The survey, conducted from July 31 to Aug. 3, 1997, for the American Society of CLU & ChFC by Opinion Research Corporation International, a leading research firm with headquarters in Princeton, N.J., found that only 10 percent of those surveyed turn to a financial adviser or planner. Eight percent turn to an accountant or CPA, and another 8 percent seek help from a banker or trust officer.

"This information is a recipe for disaster," according to Stuart G. Tugman, CLU, ChFC, president of the American Society of CLU & ChFC, in a news release.

"Financial planning is both more complicated and more necessary now than ever before. A number of demographic trends have revealed a situation in which people are living longer and saving less," Tugman said.

"With the shift from traditional managed pension funds to 401(k) plans, individuals have been given responsibility to direct their investments. A more serious concern is that many people are not using wise management of the money they do save. Certainly, this survey raises new concern that people are not seeking the many kinds of professional advice available in the marketplace."

Tugman continued, "The new tax code, while delivering breaks to many, also has seriously complicated financial planning for many groups, making the situation even worse. For example, capital gains tax is lower, but more complex with nine tax rates and many conditions, exceptions and exclusions," he added.

Founded in 1928, the American Society of CLU & ChFC is a national association of 33,000 insurance and financial service professionals. The organization is dedicated to enhancing its members' ability to offer financial security for individuals, families and business. Members have earned or are working toward professional designations and master's degrees from The American College.

The financial planning survey referenced above was conducted by telephone among a national probability sample of 1,012 adults comprising 504 men and 508 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States.

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