Americans Reveal Financial Needs and What They Expect From Advisors

The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey* contains information you might find useful as you meet with clients and market your services. Similar to prior years, the 2017 survey presents what appear to be persuasive data about Americans’ need for financial guidance. The survey also reveals expectations about services financial advisors should provide.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 6, 2017 to Jan. 13, 2017 through online interviews with 1,671 individuals (1082 workers and 589 retirees) ages 25 and older in the United States.

Basic Information

The survey suggests many Americans lack even basic information about retirement needs. Only 41% of survey respondents report they and/or their spouse have ever tried to calculate how much money they will need to save to live comfortably in retirement. Only 38% of those who responded to the survey have attempted to estimate how much monthly income they would need in retirement. Only 21% have tried to calculate how much they may need for health care expenses during retirement. Offering assistance to fill in these information gaps may be an effective way to make contact and begin a client relationship. 

Inertia Appears to Be Winning

The potential for advisors appears to be large. The survey suggests that while Americans may recognize their need for guidance, the percentage that has actually sought the services of a financial professional is low. Twenty-three percent of survey respondents said they have talked with a professional about retirement planning. Eleven percent said they have prepared a formal, written financial plan for retirement.

Marketing Your Services

What services should financial advisors promote as they try to reach this audience? Planning for medical costs during retirement appears to be a huge concern. Ninety percent of survey respondents said they would value information from a financial advisor about how to cover medical and long-term care expenses. Advisors should also be prepared to answer Social Security questions. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said an advisor should provide advice and information about when to claim Social Security. Other key areas of expertise expected from financial advisors include developing a formal financial plan for retirement (87%) and converting assets into retirement income (86%).

Only 53% of survey respondents said they are very or somewhat confident they know how much money to contribute monthly for retirement. A similar percentage (52%) expressed confidence about protecting retirement savings as they transition to retirement.

A Realistic Retirement Age

The survey also suggests advisors may need to help clients and prospects be realistic about their projected retirement age and the possibility of later-life employment.

There is a big gap in the survey between the age when active workers expect to retire and the actual age of retirees. Only 17% of active workers who responded to this survey question said they plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 64. However, 38% of retirees said they retired in that age range. The survey found that 48% of retirees left the workforce earlier than planned for a variety of reasons, including company downsizing, poor health or the need to care for a family member.

A gap also exists in pre-retirees’ expectations for later-life job income and the percentage of retirees who actually worked. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents said they plan to work for pay in retirement. Only 29% of retirees who responded said they had actually done so.


Explore the Scottrade® Strategic Resource Center to connect with companies in the field of practice management that can help you design and market your expertise. Many of these resources offer discounts to advisors who use Scottrade as a custodian for assets. (Scottrade provides this resource for informational purposes and does not specifically endorse any of the businesses within the directory. Scottrade also does not pass judgement as to whether these services are appropriate for specific business needs. Be advised this is not a full and comprehensive list of businesses that offer these types of products or services and that advisors are responsible for doing adequate research before making any purchases. 

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