Advisers Don’t Always Boost Investor Confidence

Among those already engaged with their finances and financial services professionals, retirement planning remains a hot topic—but investors broadly feel confused and concerned. 

Scottrade’s 2017 Retirement Study suggests a “majority of U.S. investors are working with an adviser for retirement planning.”

The study further suggests nearly two-thirds (62%) of investors “are working with a financial professional to help them plan for retirement, and nearly half (47%) of these investors say they are very satisfied with the way their financial adviser has managed their retirement assets.”

Another 43% are “somewhat” satisfied, Scottrade reports.

These numbers will probably seem high to many readers of PLANADVISER, who will know that advisers still only directly serve a minority of the total number of U.S. individual investors. It is important to note that the sample was comprised of 1,030 adults in the U.S. aged 18 and older who are already “involved in investment decisions for their household and have $2,500 or more in investments with a full-service brokerage company, online brokerage company or independent financial adviser.”

So really the report is showing that, among those already engaged with their finances and financial services professionals, retirement planning remains a hot topic—and one that causes considerable anxiety.

The survey report shows about half of those polled, “especially Millennials and Gen Xers,” admit they are “overwhelmed by all the investment choices that are available.” At the same time, according to the firm, a majority (61%) “wish they had access to reliable guidance.”

Interestingly, investors who are currently using an adviser are even more likely than those who are not using an adviser to say they “feel overwhelmed by all of the retirement investment choices that are available,” at 52% compared with 42%. For the latter group, it is most likely a lack of awareness rather than real financial prowess that is leading to the outsized confidence.

NEXT: Investors want trustworthy, timely advice 

According to Scottrade, nearly half of investors who use an adviser say they “don’t always understand why they have the retirement investments that they do, and feel their adviser sometimes recommends products and solutions that are in their adviser’s own best interests.”

“It’s notable and, to be frank, disconcerting that the survey results show us that actually using an adviser doesn’t appear to lead to greater clarity or confidence,” observes Brian Stimpfl, senior vice president and head of Scottrade Advisor Services. “But it’s important to take these findings and recognize that there is an opportunity for advisers to come alongside their clients and build trust by not only providing additional information, but also guidance to understand what options are best for their individual needs.”

Matching other recent research, the study finds “younger cohorts are far more likely than their older peers to express hesitation and cynicism about the choices their advisers make on their behalf and are more likely to wish for advice they can trust. And Gen Xers stand out as the least likely age cohort to feel very satisfied with their adviser.”

Survey data shows “being overwhelmed by the investment landscape” has a direct, negative impact on investor confidence and satisfaction. “Almost half (48%) of investors say they feel overwhelmed by all of the retirement investment choices that are available,” the study explains. “These investors are more likely than investors who are not overwhelmed to say they don’t spend much time on their retirement accounts; say the fees they pay for retirement investments are not worth the service they get; say they wish had access to trustworthy retirement investment guidance; be less confident that they will have enough money in their retirement account when they retire; and feel they won’t ever be able to retire.”

“The results clearly show that being overwhelmed directly impacts investor confidence, highlighting the important role an adviser plays in an investor’s experience,” Stimpfl concludes.

The full analysis, as well as other recent Scottrade research is available online here