Financial plans are considered a wise investment for households, but can they save the national economy? A survey commissioned by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards suggests maybe. The poll earlier this month of more than 1,000 adults age 18 and up found that those with a financial plan possessed greater confidence in their financial well-being and were more likely to spend money in a recession than those who lacked a plan. For example, 59 percent of those polled who had plans were willing to make home improvements, compared to 33 percent of those who were lacking plans; 49 percent of people with plans said they would splurge on personal items, while only 25 percent of those without plans would splurge.
“Those who had their own financial plan, overall, feel more optimistic about their own financial future and are more willing to contribute to the economy by spending more,” CFP Chair Charles A. Moran said during a conference call today on the survey’s results.
One possible explanation for the results: those with financial plans tend to have more money to spend. The survey found that 91 percent of those who earn at least $100,000 a year have a plan. That number falls to 74 percent for those making between $35,000 and $50,000 annually, and to 69 percent for those earning $35,000 or less. Of course, “having a plan” is itself a relative matter. While nearly four in five of those polled said they had one, more than half said don’t have an official, written document. Just 36 percent of those polled said they have worked with, or are currently working with, a planner.
The CFP board has been working hard to turn that around. In April it launched a marketing campaign to promote the CFP brand; the four-year campaign is expected to cost $40 million. There may be some hurdles to overcome. The survey found that 40 percent of those polled were less trusting of financial planners than they were three years ago, although half said their feelings were unchanged since the financial crisis. Yet more than half of those who lacked a financial plan believed they would feel more confident about their future if they had one.
Finding an advisor is not something that consumers feel highly confident they can do, Moran said. It’s up to CFP to explain how the process works, he said, and why it has value. Many Americans, when faced with choices about how to manage their 401(k) assets, default to the familiar, Moran said. “If you talk to people in a corporation and ask them who their financial advisor is, it’s the person in the cubicle next to them,” he said.