As if financial advisors needed more validation of their efforts, a new LIMRA survey quantified just how important and impactful wealth management professionals are to the long-term savings and investment plans of most Americans.

Beyond the basic blocking and tackling of investment planning – picking a retirement planning program or investing in IRAs – the survey perhaps more importantly found that working with a financial advisor had a definitive and positive psychological effect on investors’ confidence.

"We've all seen the scary statistics that not enough people are saving for retirement – a recent LIMRA survey revealed that almost half of Americans were not contributing to an employer sponsored retirement plan or an IRA,” Alison Salka, LIMRA’s corporate vice president and director, said in the report. "Given the decline of defined benefit pension coverage, people need to be saving more to fund their retirements.”

“We do see one hopeful sign,” she added. “Our research shows that consumers who work with an advisor are more likely to contribute to a retirement plan."

LIMRA's study found that 61% of consumers who worked with an advisor contributed to a retirement plan or an IRA, while only 38% of people who weren't working with an advisor were contributing to their retirement savings. Even controlling for income, consumers who work with a financial professional are more likely to be contributing to a defined contribution plan or IRA.

Seventy-one percent of Americans who work with financial advisors said they were confident they were saving enough to afford their desired lifestyle in retirement, while only 43% of those who don't work with advisors were confident that they are currently saving enough to last throughout their retirement years.

LIMRA researchers attribute the difference primarily to education – financial advisors provide information, recommendations and guidance. Of the one quarter of non-retired Americans who report working with a paid financial professional, half indicate that the advisor provided guidance on how much to save for retirement and nearly a third indicate the advisor provided guidance on a target amount to save.

The survey also found that people who work with an advisor are more likely to save at a higher rate than those who don’t. Sixty-one percent of consumers who work with an advisor saved at a high rate compared with 36 percent of consumers who did not work with an advisor.

“It is clear that advisors make a difference,” Salka said. “It is vital that we as an industry better communicate the value of using an advisor to ensure a secure retirement – especially to younger consumers who are less likely to have a pension to rely on in retirement and, according to our survey, are also less likely to be saving for retirement.”

LIMRA is a consulting and professional development organization dedicated to helping more than 850 insurance and financial services companies in 73 countries increase their marketing and distribution efforts.

Larry Barrett writes for Financial Planning.