Spokane Journal of Business

Going to dentist, working out, or prepping for future?

Financial planning trails mundane activities on list of priorities, survey finds

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Americans who are actively planning for retirement are more likely to visit the dentist or exercise regularly this year than spend time on their investments or retirement planning, according to the findings of a retirement survey.

More than eight out of 10 (84 percent) of those surveyed said they expect to see their dentist this year for regular cleanings. However, less than half (43 percent) said they plan to meet with their financial adviser to review their investment strategies, and only half (51 percent) said they intend to create or reviewa financial plan.

The findings came from the second Perspectives on Retirement survey by The PNC Financial Services Group Inc., a publicly traded company based in Pittsburgh.

Seven out of 10 (70 percent) respondents said they plan to get more exercise regularly in 2013, while only 46 percent said they plan to increase saving and investing. About two-thirds (65 percent) said they view money and finances as complex, while 67 percent say they procrastinate over financial matters.

"People are finding it easier to develop habits devoted to physical fitness than for financial fitness," says Stephen Pappaterra, head of wealth planning for PNC. "As with physical fitness, reaching a retirement goal doesn't happen by chance. Advisers and clients must have better conversations to create a realistic plan built around their goals and dreams while taking into account their current financial situation."

The survey, which focuses on Americans between the ages of 35 and 70 with at least $100,000 in total investable assets (representative of nearly 20 percent of U.S. households), also revealed that 62 percent haven't taken steps to prepare a retirement income plan.

"In retirement, your financial focus will shift to protecting your assets and developing an income stream to meet your retirement expenses. It's vital to keep in mind that assets will likely need to stretch 20 to 30 years or more," Pappaterra said.

Other findings in PNC's survey revealed insights from those actively planning retirement:

Off track: Only 19 percent believe they are doing better than expected on saving for retirement, and less than half (47 percent) believe they are where they need to be. About a third (31 percent) believe they are somewhat behind where they expected to be.

Looking for help: Fewer than half (46 percent) have used a professional financial adviser to develop a financial plan, and more than half (54 percent) said they would like more advice on preparing for retirement from a financial adviser or planner.

Best moves: Four in 10 (43 percent) said their best moves in retirement planning included putting as much as they could into retirement plans, contributing by automatic deduction, and keeping money in retirement accounts, while 15 percent listed "living within my means" as their best action.

Living wisely: Most respondents (77 percent) said they believe they do an excellent or very good job of living within their means.

Retirement readiness tips

"Just as with exercising, there are good habits we can all follow to maintain our financial fitness and proactive steps that can help future retirees get their finances in order," Pappaterra says.

Tips include increasing contributions to a workplace retirement plan until the limit is reached and maximize contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and employer-sponsored defined contribution plans. Employer-sponsored plans, including 401(k)s, and IRAs offer great advantages including tax-deductible contributions and tax-deferred growth, he says.

Other steps to financial fitness include paying down a mortgage, paying off debt, rolling over 401 (k)s from past employers into IRAs or current 401(k)s and saving for emergencies, he says.

Also critically important, Pappaterra says, is knowing how much you'll need to maintain a current lifestyle, reducing spending to maximize retirement savings, considering future health care expenses, and thinking about the best time to begin receiving Social Security payments.

PNC claims to be one of the nation's largest diversified financial services organizations providing retail and business banking, residential mortgage banking, and specialized services for corporations and government entities.

PNC commissioned the survey to identify attitudes and behaviors of successful savers.

The study was conducted online in January among a nationwide cross section of 1,020 adults age 35 to 70 with more than $100,000 in investable assets and at least $25,000 in liquid investable assets. One quarter of the sample had $1 million or more in total investable assets.

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