Americans Recognize Need for Financial Plan

Americans understand they have more responsibility than ever for their retirement security, but they expect the government to provide a social safety net. 

According to the survey findings from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., 82% of Americans recognize the urgency of creating a financial plan. Additionally, nearly 60% of respondents said they would benefit from the counsel of a financial planner or adviser.

Three key insights from the survey show that Americans struggle to balance short- and long-term concerns, and are aware of a changing economy.


  •  Survey respondents hold themselves accountable for their own financial security, but said they look to the government for an individual safety net. They also believe strongly that the government has a role in protecting people from fraud and abuse.

  •  Americans are divided on how they are faring in their personal financial situation as compared to one year ago. However, Americans express more optimism for their future financial situation.
  •  Aside from the immediate concern of filling up their gas tanks, the majority of Americans’ concerns center on longer-term issues like saving for retirement and reductions in federal benefits. Outliving assets and living with increased financial risk is top of mind for a subset of Americans.

The survey's findings also show that age, income, ideology and race play an important role in shaping Americans' views on their own personal economic situation:

  •  When it comes to providing financial security, 67% agree they have sole responsibility for their financial future, but Americans by a large margin want the government to provide some sort of safety net (72% for Social Security, 68% for Medicare).


  •  More than two-thirds of Americans (67%) believe it is the government's duty to protect investors from fraud and abuse.
  •  Americans are conflicted when it comes to their financial security: Many (44%) don't feel any better about their financial security than they did a year ago, and nearly a quarter (23%) feel more negatively toward their financial situation.  But half of Americans (51%) are optimistic their financial situation will improve over the next year, and less than one in 10 expect it to decline. 

  •  Over the next year, 79% of blacks and 76% of Hispanics expect their financial situation to improve. Less than half of whites (43%) expect their situation to improve.

  •  Those identifying themselves as black or Hispanic are far more positive about their current financial situation than whites, with 41% of blacks saying they are more positive now than a year ago, and 43% of Hispanics saying the same.
  •  Those identifying themselves as "liberal" register the highest degree of optimism at 62%; 44% of those identifying themselves as “conservative” expressed such optimism.

  •  Daily financial concerns are top of mind for most Americans; among the primary concerns: filling up their gas tank (54%), securing and paying for health insurance (46%), making their housing payment (39%) and getting or keeping a job (38%).

  •  Securing and keeping a job is of paramount importance to young people (18-34), with 51% of women and 55% of men expressing this as a major financial worry.

  •  Long-term issues weigh heavily among respondents, with 49% saying they are troubled about their retirement savings and 48% concerned about a reduction in government benefits. Only 40% of all Americans believe they will be able to retire by 65, and only 27% of males 18-34 say they will be able to retire at that age.

  •  A third of Americans express concern that they will outlive their retirement assets, and nearly two in five feel their financial security is more at risk than ever before.

  •  Similarly, 72% of older women (65 and older) express concerns about reductions in government benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while just 33% of women ages 18-34 share that concern.

  •  Those with incomes of less than $35,000 are more concerned with securing and paying for health insurance (58%) and a reduction in government benefits (58%) than those in higher income brackets, with only 26% of those making $100,000 or more a year concerned about their health insurance needs.


The survey was conducted by KRC Research from March 1 to 4, 2012, via telephone among 1,015 Americans ages 18 and older.

The full report for the Shifting Economy Survey is available here.