What Worries You?

On Friday, December 12, NBC News and The Wall Street Journal published a poll and its interpretation. In the poll, 2,013 Americans over the age of 18 were asked a great many things about their political, social and financial attitudes. Some of the data is revealing about who we are and what we believe.

First, according to the poll, 65% of Americans believe that financial concerns are the major challenge in our lives. In the polled group, first place went to financial matters in all but the lives of the oldest of us. 26% of those age 18 to 29 worry just about having enough money, 21% of those age 30 to 49 worry even more about having enough, while 40% of those age 50 to 64 look ahead and worry about having enough to retire on. For those over age 65, the primacy of financial concerns falters. Seniors are most concerned about their health, not their money.

Second, Americans are pretty confident about the U.S. economy and the adequacy of their personal finances. But there is a caveat. In all age groups, Americans under 65 are afraid that they may not be saving enough money.

Satisfied with All Adults
18 to 29
30 to 49
50 to 64
(Silent Gen.)
65 and over
US economy 70% 65% 69% 75% 74%
Your financial situation 71% 64% 68% 74% 83%
Amount of money you are saving 44% 42% 38% 48% 62%

Most people who come to see us at BWFA are concerned that their savings will not be enough to support their lifestyle or retirement. Unlike the generation for whom Social Security was designed, their life expectancy is not 67 years, but 87. Since most Americans are planning to retire before 60, an extra 20 years life expectancy means that they are expecting about 30 earning years to support them for 30 retirement years. Unless they have been very strong savers (and most have not as the poll shows) they are in for a rude awakening. The satisfaction they report in the poll concerning their own financial situation is shallow. So, although they may be satisfied with their present incomes, they are insecure about their future.

Preparing for the future requires real planning. Projecting current assets and expenses into the future will provide full knowledge of the savings levels really required to meet their retirement goals. Many will be shocked at the amount they will need to accumulate to retire comfortably.

No matter how our clients reach us, whatever their age or social environment, they have one thing in common. They are uncomfortable about something. Perhaps it is the uneasy feeling that they may not be able to attain an important goal, such as early retirement or college education funding? Maybe they are concerned about investment tax planning and would like to have their taxes looked at by a planner rather than a preparer? Maybe they are not confident in managing their investments in environments in which assets decline in value or stay flat in price?

At BWFA, we promise to diagnose the problem and prescribe recommendations to heal the pain. In this sense, we’re not just bodyguards, we are financial physicians. Our fee may be hourly, a percentage, or a flat fee… but our help is predictable. We remove discomfort and increase comfort. By 2000 the NBC/WSJ poll may identify another set of financial issues: among them another new tax law, I’m betting. Whatever produces pain in 2000, we’ll have evolved services to relieve it. BWFA will still be on the leading edge in personal financial management.