By Cyril Tuohy
If too many Americans are underinsured and ill-prepared for retirement, maybe it’s because they keep “the conversation” silent for too long and don’t do enough to get the discussion started with the help of an advisor. Or maybe it’s because so many Americans are so busy earning a living that they’ve never paused long enough to think about their financial future.
Either way, people aren’t doing enough to bring financial planning issues into the light of day, the 2014 Planning and Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual has found.
Greg Oberland, president of Northwestern Mutual, which commissioned the study, said discussions related to money are “more awkward than many of the topics we asked about,” yet the conversations are necessary, particularly in the difficult economic environment.
The study was conducted early this year through an online survey by Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual, and included 2,092 American adults age 18 or older.
The study participants said the most difficult subject to talk about was asking to borrow money from parents. Other topics they found difficult to talk about were, in descending order:
- Asking for money back that was lent to a family member or friend
- Asking for a raise or a promotion
- Talking about long-term care needs of parents
- Asking parents about wills and estates
- Talking to family members about death preparations
- Asking children to move out of the house
- Talking about sticking to household budgets
- Asking adult-age children to get a job
Oberland said that starting the dialogue can be the most difficult part, “but people need to realize the significant benefits of openly communicating their financial and retirement goals.”
"A financial professional can be a valuable resource who can facilitate discussions about long-term goals and planning, listen to your needs and goals, and work with you to remove anxiety about affording retirement," he said.
Retirement talk is often absent from regular conversation.
The survey found that 42 percent of respondents had not spoken to anyone about their own retirement, and only 39 percent had conversations with their spouse or partner about retirement.
In interviews last year with InsuranceNewsNet, financial advisors said that it’s common for people to not reveal their financial securities and insecurities until they feel comfortable.
“Some people are embarrassed to provide information, so I don’t ask,” said financial advisor Joel Twedt, a principal at Twedt Financial Services in Lake Mills, Iowa. “Once they get comfortable, it’s amazing what they reveal.”
Financial advisors say they are like medical doctors. The more a patient tells the doctor, the easier it is for the doctor to help.
Twedt, a 35-year veteran of the financial advising business, said he’s been doing it long enough to know that clients will reveal what they want only when they feel ready.
So he doesn’t force or pressure clients to tell what they are uncomfortable revealing. Instead, he prefers to pull them along rather than push them beyond their comfort zone. In time, clients come forward and that’s when things begin to change, he said.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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