America’s impending retirement crisis is no secret. Once common knowledge only among financial professionals, it is now common knowledge among consumers as well, most of whom are unsure how much money they’ll need in retirement. But there’s one thing they do know, which is they haven’t saved enough.

That’s why 35 percent of Americans view “saving for later life” as a priority.1 Even the 65 percent who don’t view it a priority today expect it to become one within the next five years. 

Fear of Planning Leads to Inaction

Consumers are eager to escape the pressure of needing to make money, even though they want to increase their savings. Ironically, many reported feeling too paralyzed to move forward. Here are some reasons why:

  • Lack of knowledge. Consumers do not understand basic financial planning and investment concepts and products, which often leads to inaction.
  • Fear of being judged. Feeling uninformed often causes people, especially women who have historically received less access to financial education than men, to put off making decisions. Women also feel more pressure to “get it right” for the sake of others.
  • Generational differences. Millennials generally have a more positive relationship with retirement planning than previous generations, yet Gen X and Boomers have a more pressing need to plan, especially considering the decline in participation of defined benefit plans.

Consumer Confidence: It’s All About Connection

So, what helps boost consumer confidence? Connection.

Fostering effective relationships between consumers and financial professionals begins with the ability to communicate, listen, and respond with both head and heart.

Research shows that consumer financial confidence is directly correlated with how satisfied consumers are with their financial professional. What’s more, research shows that two main factors drive increased confidence in later-life planning:

  • Higher levels of financial literacy
  • Ownership of defined benefit policies and products

Financial professionals can help consumers increase both their financial literacy and their ownership of defined benefit policies and products by clearly explaining the benefits of such ownership.

To help both consumers and financial professionals reframe the conversation, Jackson has developed this eBook. It includes both helpful guidelines and practical examples.

The Search for the Right Financial Professional: Demographic Differences

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing the right financial professional, demographic differences play a role:

  • Individuals ages 34-54 care more about the financial professional’s reputation, as well as his or her specialties, practice size, and quality of marketing materials. People in this age group are most likely to use search engine results and social media posts to find a professional.
  • Individuals ages 55-64 care more about what others have to say about the financial professional they work with. They are also more likely than those ages 34-54 to get information from and make decisions based on the advice of a financial professional.
  • Individuals ages 65 and above prefer working with investment advisory firms, rather than independent financial professionals.

Key differences by gender:

  • Both genders list “talking to family or friends” and “speaking with a financial professional via phone” as their top ways of researching a financial professional.
  • Men, however, put more emphasis on the financial professional’s website, while women are more likely to find their financial professional by attending group meetings, workshops, or seminars.
  • Women are also more likely to prefer independent financial professionals, whereas men typically prefer large financial services firms.

Closing the Financial Planning Confidence Gap  

To close the financial planning gap, it can be helpful to think about three categories of individuals:

  • Complacent Wishful Thinkers rely on financial professionals at a lower rate (33 percent) than other individuals, and they are less likely to be familiar with annuities (only 23 percent vs. 40 percent for Cautiously Optimistic Preparers and 51 percent of Literate and Secure Savers).2

Complacent Wishful Thinkers are also more difficult to reach, in large because they do not conduct as much proactive financial research.

  • Cautiously Optimistic Preparers are heavy users of financial professionals, with 47 percent relying on a financial professional as their primary source of financial information, compared to the 37 percent average across all segments.3

Cautiously Optimistic Preparers get their financial information from both traditional channels (TV, websites, and print media), as well as email newsletters.

  • Literate and Secure Savers (42 percent) also rely on financial professionals, although they do a lot of research as well.4

Reaching this segment is easier based on their proactive interest in financial topics and heavy use of direct mail, online video, and social media, as well as niche financial websites.

Guru to Guide eBook

If you’d like to learn more about how the retirement landscape has evolved and have a better sense of client expectations, download this free From Guru to Guide eBook.  




1. "The Journey to Financial Literacy," Metia, commissioned by Jackson, 2019.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.



Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal. 

The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete.

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