What do you get when you mix trillions of dollars in assets and a quasi-ignorant understanding of finance?
Enter the Generation X and Generation Y consumers.
More than half of Gen X and Gen Y consumers in the U.S. admit having little or no knowledge about investments and financial products, according to a recent LIMRA study.
The study revealed that consumers who work with financial professionals to make investment decisions are more likely than those who do not work with financial professionals to be very knowledgeable about investments and financial products (14 percent versus 6 percent), but only one in five work with a financial professional.
That doesnt necessarily mean working with a financial professional guarantees financial enlightenment.
The increased knowledge levels could be related to education efforts on the part of financial professionals, or the fact that more knowledgeable Gen X and Gen Y consumers work with financial professionals, Cecilia Shiner, senior analyst at LIMRA Retirement Research, said in a statement.
The study is based on a survey conducted in May 2012 that polled 5,296 Americans aged 20 to 84. Of the people surveyed, 884 respondents were Gen X and 720 were Gen Y.
Respondents who had access to a defined contribution (DC) plan through their employer, but had never made contributions, were reported to be more likely to feel less knowledgeable about investments and financial products than those currently contributing to their DC plan.
Most Gen X and Y Americans will have to rely solely on their savings to fund their retirement, yet few are taking full advantage of the retirement savings vehicles available to them, Shiner said. The decisions these consumers make today will have a lasting impact on their ability to be financially secure in their retirement years.
Of the nearly $3 trillion in Gen X household financial assets, 43 percent is invested in retirement and pension accounts. Among retirement and pension accounts, two thirds of assets are held in DC savings plans and 30 percent are in IRAs, according to Federal Reserve Boards 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances.
This compares to the $229 billion Gen Y consumer industry, who on average have contributed to their current employers DC plan for four years, accumulating slightly less than $26,000. The median deferral rate for Gen Y consumers is six percent, with one in five Gen Y consumers contributing three percent or less to their current employers DC plan, according to the Federal Reserve Board.
Theres a lot of attention on the Baby Boomers (78 million) but there are nearly 116 million Americans aged 20 to 47, and as an industry we need to help these Americans plan and save for retirement, Shiner said.
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