estate plan

More Than Half of American Adults Are Living Without an Estate Plan

October is national estate planning awareness month.

Lack of financial awareness and financial literacy is a major social problem; over half of the American adult population doesn’t have their estate plans in order. As October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month, it’s a perfect opportunity for advisors to join the movement to alert, educate, motivate and assist the general public to cost-effectively establish and keep their estate and financial plans and gifting plans current.

Uninformed, Not Ignorant

With so many people on the path to or verge of running out of money before their life expectancy, many families burdened with large amounts of student loans and other forms of debt, and such a high number of Americans lacking up-to-date estate and financial plans to protect themselves and their families, advisors can play a critical role in fixing this for future generations.

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report from January 2015 examined the link between financial education and financial well-being. A key takeaway was that while many adults desire to educate themselves to become more financially literate, they often seek out that information only within their social networks. This cuts across all demographics, including education level and income. This is an alarming revelation because individuals are making critical life decisions based on information gained from non-experts and fragmented sources.

Role of the Advisor

Financial service professionals can step in to help better educate kids and their families using a variety of educational tools like videos, webinars and eLearning platforms. One suggestion is to teach families to view themselves as a “family office”—for example, grandparents can help fund college education so the grandchildren start out their professional careers with less debt; in turn the grandchildren will have the financial resources available to later help grandparents with long-term care needs. It’s important for advisors to urge clients to start educational training with their children at a young age and continue to reinforce it with lifelong learning.

Benefits for All Involved

Providing these educational tools will benefit advisors as well in that their clients will be able to communicate and work more effectively with them to make better-informed financial decisions. With the greatest wealth transfer in history under way, more efficient planning also means a significantly smaller amount of assets will be wasted, which will in turn enable more philanthropic and charitable contributions to individuals and organizations that need it most. 

Of course, raising financial awareness doesn’t squarely fall on advisors. Legislators and educators, especially universities and colleges, can take an active role in solving the problem as well, for example, by taking initiative to set up programs that can better educate graduating students in the essential principles of smart financial management.

A concerted effort by those with the tools to make a difference will go a long way to improve financial awareness and literacy and help eliminate this major social challenge for our future generations.

To learn more about this important Improving Financial Awareness & Financial Literacy Movement and the concentrated personal finance semi-annual media blitz, and how you and your organization can participate, please visit http://home.thefinancialawarenessfoundation.org/campaigns.html.

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