Americans view retirement planning as the most difficult financial task, a survey of 4,000 investors by Hearts & Wallets found.

Only 60% of those in or approaching retirement have a solid or written income plan, and of those 57% developed their own plan. “Plans have on average only 4.1 of the eight components that we view as important for a robust retirement income plan,” said Chris Brown, one of the authors of the study. “Retirees are struggling to make informed income drawdown choices. Thirty percent of those without pensions are drawing down income at unsustainable rates of 7% or more.”

The report also identified accumulators as those between 28 and 64 and said they had more than $12.9 trillion in assets at the end of the second quarter, and that these assets will rise to $14.3 trillion by 2012, with most growth coming from younger investors in their 40s or younger.

“Hearts & Wallets first identified the importance of this growing market in the fourth quarter of 2008,” said Laura Varas, author of they survey. “Our understanding of accumulator attitudes and actions led us to predict a savings increase and growth in the importance of accumulator lifestages to overall household investable assets. There are more young and emerging households than any other lifestage. The best way for financial firms to connect with this demographic is through retirement plans and a low-cost, technology-enabled model.”

In overall market share, Fidelity Investments and Bank of America lead, having relationships with 16% and 15% of Americans, respectively, the survey found.

Discount brokers lead among high-net-worth investors, pre-/post-retirees and young investors. Full-service firms lead only with retirees and those having more than $500,000 in assets. Full-service firms may want to build relationships now with younger investors, taking a page from BoA Merrill Lynch with its online discount option Merrill Edge, Hearts & Wallets said.

The survey also found that four out of five of those in their late 50s who are still working, or 40%, do not have retirement on the horizon in the next five years. Many pre- and post-retirees are also unsure what to do with their real estate, and only one in five of this group, or 20%, would consider a reverse mortgage.

Only 42% of investors overall rate their financial advisers a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. They report that the key factors they care about with their financial adviser are being knowledgeable and tactical. However, through regression analysis, Hearts & Wallets found that the key trust driver is actually making a profit.

The survey also found that retirees get about half of their income from Social Security and less than 10% from qualified plan withdrawals and stock/mutual fund dividends. More than 40% of retirees live on less than 60% of pre-retirement income. “Financial firms may want to adjust target calculations of 85% to reflect investor realities,” Hearts & Wallets said.

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