Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Are We Thinking?

2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which grants the CFP® certification and upholds it as the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. To mark the occasion, the Board recently conducted a survey of 1,002 Americans to gauge their opinions regarding the economy, financial regulation, and their own personal financial situations.

Americans are keeping their optimism in check and preparing for a long slow return to growth, according the poll:

  • Nearly two out of three Americans (65 percent) are more concerned about their finances today than they were at the beginning of the financial crisis two years ago.
  • A bit more than a third of Americans (37 percent) expect to see their personal finances improve in the next six months, versus less than half (46 percent) who expect to hold onto what they currently have, and 16 percent who expect to lose money.
  • 80 percent of Americans say that Congress and regulators have not done enough “to deal with the financial market problems and their impact on American investors.”
  • A bright spot in the findings: 44 percent of Americans expect the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months, while only 28 percent expect things to get worse. A smaller group (22 percent) anticipates no change in the economy.
  • When asked to describe how they feel about their personal finances, the #1 response from Americans was “cautious” (33 percent), followed by “calm” (26 percent), “concerned” (25 percent) and “hopeful” (25 percent). (Multiple responses were permitted to this question.)
  • Interestingly, ethnicity seems to bear on the perception of the prospects for the economy, with just 38 percent of whites expecting the economy to improve, compared to 51 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of African Americans.
The survey found the following about Americans’ attitudes toward financial planners:

  • More than two out of five Americans (43 percent) think financial planners are now “more important in the last two years since the start of the financial crisis,” compared to about a third (36 percent) who see no change, and 14 percent who now see planners as being “less important.”
  • Overall use of financial planners by Americans has remained almost unchanged during the first two years of the U.S. financial crisis – starting at 29 percent compared to 28 percent today.
  • Of those who have started using a financial planner since the start of the financial crisis, nearly a third (31 percent) say they have done so because “I felt like I needed more financial guidance during these difficult times for investors.” A bigger percentage of those in this group (44 percent) said they have started using a financial planner during the last two years for reasons “unrelated to the financial crisis.”

For some reason, there was one question that asked respondents to describe the economy as an animal. The answers were actually quite interesting and revealing: they tend towards slow, lumbering animals like sloths, bears, turtles, and elephants, while few choose the iconic symbol of confidence, the bull.

Not sure what all this tells us beyond what we already know, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

Have a great week!

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