How are the business conditions in the planning industry these days? No doubt you have a solid idea on the health of your own practice, but when I ask planners from different-sized practices or from different parts of the country that question, I get a wide variety of responses. To help planners get a broader sense of industry trends so they can make better business decisions, Financial Planning this month launches its Retirement Advisor Confidence Index.

Our monthly barometer of business conditions for the wealth management sector, based on FP's survey of more than 300 advisors, is comprised of 12 factors, including asset allocations, investment product recommendations, client recruitment and retention, economic trends and risk tolerance, taxes and planning fees.

The RACI - which has an initial reading of 48.7% - indicates that the planning industry experienced a modest contraction in activity. An RACI reading of less than 50% indicates a decline relative to the prior month, while more than 50% indicates an expansion.

Economic and market concerns clearly were prevalent, the survey found. "Clients still recognize the need to continue funding retirement accounts, but some are again backing away from perceived risk," one planner told us. But the demand for planning is benefitting many - more advisors said their retirement-planning fees were increasing than decreasing. Indeed, one respondent told us, "We have steadily increased our market share for the past five years."

In the months to come, you'll be able to count on the RACI to monitor specific trendlines and get a truer sense of business conditions in the planning industry. Our New Online Look

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