Planning Ahead Proved Difficult

In the past year, retirees/pre-retirees with financial planners lost money at about the same rate as those without financial planners, according to a survey of Consumer Reports readers.

Unlike last year’s survey of readers of Consumer Reports, those who reported using financial planners said they were no more satisfied than those who educated themselves.

More than half (51%) of the surveyed retirees and 55% of those just short of retirement are facing investment losses of at least 20% in the past 12 months. The Consumer Reports 2008 Retirement Survey also found that while consumers who planned ahead were more satisfied with their retirement prospects, pre-retirees who had done more planning reported worse losses, on average, than those who have not planned, according to a press release.

Among pre-retirees, 90% are planning ahead by reading books or articles, consulting professionals, using online software, taking courses, or conversing with family and friends. Despite the current market climate, the more planning methods used, the more satisfied the respondents are, the press release said.

However, survey respondents who plan ahead are less conservative, in general than those who do not, which Consumer Reports points out was a beneficial strategy before the market meltdown, according to Consumer Reports’ 2007 Retirement Survey, but it proved punishing during the unusually severe market downturn of recent months.

Turning to Plan B

Forty-three percent of respondents that did four or more planning activities said they would now delay retirement a year, compared with 28% of those who had done nothing. Greater losses might have forced the decision.

About half of the more than 19,000 Consumer Reports online subscribers between the ages of 55 to 75 surveyed have already made strides to generate more cash, including eating out less and cutting back on entertainment. About one-third have cut their credit card use and spent less on groceries and household goods.