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WASHINGTON-Young and low-income Americans’ concern for their personal finances has increased significantly in the past year, according to a study sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association. The survey, performed by the Opinion Research Corporation International in late April, discovered that less than half of Americans have created a financial plan, even though nearly all of the respondents feel it is important. “The most troubling finding here is the growing financial anxiety gap between the young and the poor on the one hand and the old and the affluent on the other,” Consumer Federation of America Executive Director Stephen Brobeck told reporters. “Most significantly, in the past year, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds `very worried’ about their incomes grew substantially, from five to 21% for income adequacy, and from 10 to 27% for income security.” The data indicates that younger Americans are increasingly worried about obtaining and keeping a job. Brobeck continued, “In contrast, despite substantial declines in the value of their stock investments, the percentage of persons over 65 `very worried’ about their incomes is minimal; 5% for income security and only 2% for income adequacy.” Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said financial planning was important to them personally, with 52% responding “very important.” Particularly, adults between the ages of 25 and 34 said they believed financial planning important. Of all the respondents who had not set up a financial plan a strong minority, 28%, said they expected to prepare a plan in the next year. Regardless, most Americans still have not developed a financial plan to assess their overall goals and map out how to reach them, according to the CFA/FPA study. Just 46% said they have developed a financial plan, with the young and the poor least likely to have done so. The elderly who had not created their financial roadmap were found most likely to respond that they don’t think they need a financial plan, while the younger crowd says they want to develop one but haven’t gotten around to it. The poor were most likely to respond that they don’t have enough money for the exercise to be worthwhile. The anxiety of lower-income Americans with regard to the adequacy of their income dramatically increased from 14 to 23% for those with salaries below $15,000. Anxieties of those with annual income between $15,000 and $25,000 jumped from 6 to 18%. Those with incomes between $15,000 and $25,000 concerned about the adequacy of their savings rose from 14 to 23%. “One thing I found notable in the survey is the fact that among those surveyed who had not done any planning and who had relatively low-incomes and little assets, they indicated that most often, that the reason they didn’t plan was because they didn’t have enough money to make it worthwhile,” FPA President David Yeske commented at the unveiling. “And the thing we find interesting about that is that those people with low-incomes and little assets probably benefit more from financial planning than anyone else, including the wealthy. The bottom line is that those without savings cannot afford to make mistakes; they don’t have the reserves.” CFA, through the America Saves program and with the assistance of FPA, is offering free financial advice for developing a plan from certified financial planners who belong to FPA. “To assist Americans with this planning in the coming year, CFA and FPA will expand the free planning services available through America Saves. This national campaign, which involves hundreds of organizations, tries to help non-savers save and build personal wealth,” Brobeck said. America Saves is aimed at encouraging and assisting non-savers to build wealth through home ownership, retirement accounts, personal savings, and other methods. Local Saves campaigns have been launched in Cleveland, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Gadsen County (Fla.), Northern Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Columbus (Ga.) and are being organized in several other communities nationwide. The local campaigns offer free services including wealth building workshops, one-on-one wealth coaching, financial planning advice, savers clubs, and low- or no-fee savings accounts through banks and credit unions. The pilot local program, Cleveland Saves, began two years ago and now boasts well over 3,000 savers, with 15 banks and credit unions participating by offering low-balance savings accounts. In July, Brobeck said, CFA plans to release additional financial planning data specifically geared toward the Hispanic community for the kick off of its Hispanic America Saves program. About a year ago, the group started Black America Saves. America Saves is a collaboration of nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, employers, and government institutions, Brobeck explained, including Fannie and Freddie, Federal Reserve, Consumers Union, AARP, and USDA’s Cooperative Extension. Among the members of its advisory group are the National Credit Union Foundation, NAFCU, and CUNA Mutual. “In the future, what we’re hoping to do is to recruit depository institutions that offer savings accounts throughout much of the country in the same way we’ve done that locally.to offer low-balance, low- or no-fee savings accounts to anybody in America. That will certainly start with the online financial institutions because anybody can open a savings account there,” Brobeck said. [email protected]

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