A large majority of Americans prefer to “do-it-myself” rather than depend on an agent, broker or some other financial advisor to help them put together a retirement savings and income plan, which may be a major reason why so many consumers feel insecure about their long-term future.

Deloitte’s Center for Financial Services surveyed nearly 4,500 consumers from a wide range of age and income groups, identifying five barriers that are preventing insurers and annuity companies, along with other financial services providers and their intermediaries from more effectively reaching prospects when it comes to retirement products and services.

Our prior blogs about this survey focused on the first four barriers — conflicting financial priorities, a failure to communicate effectively with potential prospects (particularly via the workplace), limited awareness and understanding of retirement-related products among consumers, and a basic lack of trust in insurers and their intermediaries. 

The fifth barrier is the “do-it-myself” mentality adopted by many consumers when it comes to preparing for retirement. As a result, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by Deloitte (and about three-quarters of those who are 15 years or more from retirement) did not consult with a professional financial advisor for their retirement needs. 

This barrier is particularly problematic, given Deloitte’s survey results suggesting that using professional advisors has a significant impact on retirement planning and security. Indeed, those with a formal retirement plan are much more likely to feel secure about their long-term financial future, the survey found. And those who seek professional advice on retirement are much more likely to have a retirement plan. 

Interestingly, relatively few (13 percent) going it alone say they don’t seek help in retirement planning because they’ve had a bad experience with an advisor. Even fewer think that price is an issue, with only 12 percent asserting they can’t afford an advisor’s services. 

So, what’s holding most people back from seeking professional advice?

Beyond the trust issues already addressed in our last blog about Deloitte’s survey, the main reasons many choose not to consult with an advisor represent two sides of the same coin — their comfort level in handling retirement planning on their own, and the belief that they don’t need professional advice.

This “do-it-myself” mentality — while perhaps valid for those who have expertise and experience managing investments on their own — may not be the most appropriate method for many to navigate the potentially bumpy road to retirement, particularly given the survey’s findings regarding the glaring lack of knowledge among consumers when it comes to retirement products and services, such as annuities.

The challenge for insurers, agents, brokers and financial planners may therefore be to effectively identify, target and educate more of these “do-it-yourselfers” to better inform them about the benefits of professional advisory services, as well as the potential hazards of self-service. 

Targeting non-consumers of professional advice presents some interesting challenges for insurers. Obviously, only a subset of this segment might be persuaded to engage with professional advisors. But converting more do-it-yourselfers to advice-seekers could be rewarding if executed in the right manner. 

The key might be to serve as financial planning facilitators and enablers rather than sellers of products — emphasizing that while consumers are ultimately in charge of their own investments, there is value in having expert advice so they are able to make more informed decisions, based on all the available options.

Also, to drive home the need for professional advice, new marketing and advertising campaigns could be deployed to point out the risks of “doing-it-myself” when it comes to something as critical and potentially complex as retirement planning. 

Following the lead of ad campaigns in the personal auto insurance market, such messages could be delivered in a humorous, entertaining fashion, picturing the potentially disastrous results that might occur by deciding to “do it myself” in home and auto repairs, making one’s own clothing, cutting your own hair, and other funny but telling scenarios.

Retirement planning is probably one of the biggest financial challenges most consumers will ever face. The majority likely requires help to set the stage for a financially secure retirement — even if many of them don’t yet recognize that need, or think they are better off handling their own portfolios rather than receiving assistance from a professional advisor. 

Ultimately, it is the consumer who must take responsibility for and control of their own retirement destiny. But insurers and their intermediaries can perhaps better facilitate the retirement planning process by rethinking their operating models and approaches to more effectively meet this challenge.

A full report on what the Deloitte survey results have to say about overcoming all five barriers —“Meeting the Retirement Challenge: New Approaches and Solutions for the Financial Services Industry”— can be accessed with this link. The numbers for this report were crunched, sliced, diced, analyzed and visualized with the support of Deloitte’s Data Analysis Team, including Rahul Bagati, Nikhil Gokhale and Aditya Udai Singh.