Study a “Test Drive” For Financial Planning

by | Jun 21, 2010 | Fee Only Financial Planning, Weekly Column

Before you buy a new product, you do what you can to check out its features and research its reputation. You can test drive a car. You can try out a vacuum cleaner. Even if you want a watermelon, you can at least thump it.

Buying a service is much harder. You can’t test drive it, and there are never any guarantees you’ll be better off because of it. The attorney can’t promise you will win the lawsuit. Your doctor can’t promise to cure you or keep you from getting sick, and your accountant can’t guarantee you a lower tax bill.

Neither can a financial planner guarantee that you’ll become financially independent or you’ll never suffer market losses.

One of the leading reasons people don’t have a financial planner is that a belief that financial planning is just too expensive and they wouldn’t receive value for their money. That’s a fair concern. Certainly, before you engage the services of a professional, you need to feel your money will be well spent.

A new study just released helps to quantify whether financial planning is really worth the cost. The study, done by the Financial Planning Association and Ameriprise, was completed by over 3,022 people who had either an income or investment net worth greater than $50,000.

Having a comprehensive financial plan resulted in people feeling more confident in their financial future. Those with plans were twice as likely to say they were extremely or very confident in their financial futures (49 percent) than those who did not have a planner (25 percent).

Those with plans have a higher chance of feeling they control their money, rather than that their money controls them. Fifty percent of those with plans reported feeling in control of their financial future, while only 29 percent of those without plans felt the same.

Another benefit of financial planning is clarity of direction. Of people that have financial plans, 88% believed they had clear financial direction, compared with 60% of those without plans.

The survey found that the number one reason a person engages a financial planner is for retirement. As a result, 42 percent of people with financial plans feel extremely or very prepared for retirement, compared to only 16 percent of those without plans.

People with plans were twice as likely as those without to know how much they needed to be saving for retirement, how much of a nest egg they needed to accumulate by retirement, and how much income they could expect in retirement.

The number one reason I have a financial planner is so my family will be well taken care of in the event of my premature death or disability. The study found that 82% of people with plans are similarly confident their family will be taken care of. Only 57% of those without plans felt the same.

People with plans are more likely to have an emergency fund, with 86% having adequate funds. Only 58% with no plans did so.

People with financial plans worry about different issues than people without plans. Those with plans tend to worry most about long-term issues like accumulating wealth and financial security in retirement. Those without plans tend to worry more about spending, debt, and saving.

Before you consider engaging a planner, it’s crucial to ask for references and do some research about that person’s skills and integrity. This study isn’t a substitute for that research. It isn’t quite a “test drive” for financial planning. It does, however, indicate that financial planning clients are satisfied with the value of the services they receive.

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