Nearly half (or 45%) of all middle-class households spend all -- or more than all -- that they make every month, according to a survey by NestWise, LPL Financial’s new online planning service for middle-class investors.

The good news for advisors: A total of 65% of the survey's respondents said they wish they had someone they could trust to help with their financial and investment decisions, while 61% wish they had a better approach to planning, according to NestWise chief Esther Stearns.

“They’re optimistic about their financial futures, but many Americans are not exhibiting the financial behaviors that would set them up to achieve and maintain their financial goals,” says Stearns. “That’s why it’s so important that they have access to comprehensive, high-quality advice.”

LPL, the country’s largest independent broker-dealer, launched NestWise in September to offer planning to investors with no investment minimums. NestWise currently employs 10 advisors, some of whom came from last year's acquisition of Veritat Advisors, founded by a professor from Penn’s Wharton School.

Although Stearns declined to say how many investors currently use NestWise, she said planners currently work with clients via online video, with in-person planning to be offered soon in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver. The service competes with other venture capital-backed online startups, including Betterment, LearnVest and Personal Capital, as well as Edelman Financial’s new Edelman Online offering.


“Our industry has to a great extent underserved this demographic, but we’re doing them a great disservice,” Stearns says. “Middle-class Americans have more responsibility over their personal finances than ever before. ... [T]here is a growing need for access to high quality, personal financial advice.”

A total of 1,053 investors responded to the national survey, which was conducted in early December and focused heavily on residents of the three cities where in-person will be offered: Atlanta, Dallas and Denver. Participants ranged in age from 27 to 55 with incomes of $50,000 to $150,000, according to NestWise.

Other findings include the following:

  • Although 401(k)s are the primary form of investable assets for many, 57% said they are uncomfortable making investment decisions about their company’s retirement plan.
  • More broadly, 47% reported concern about their retirement savings.
  • 43% said they are worried about increased taxes.
  • 33% expressed anxiety about the value of their home.

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