How to worry less and save more

Investing is both a pragmatic and emotional pursuit. Patrick Nolan unveils findings from our most recent survey of investor sentiment and behavior.

The investment management business is often seen as a dispassionate numbers game. Truth be told, it’s very emotional. I personally take great pride in knowing I’m helping people to build investment portfolios aimed at achieving their life’s goals. And as an investor myself, saving for my own retirement and for my children’s college educations, I know that putting your hard earned money to work is wrought with emotion.

BlackRock’s Global Investor Pulse survey seeks to get a read on the prevailing investor sentiment and the behaviors that may be deriving from those sentiments. Now in its fifth edition, this year’s survey offers a lot to contemplate. I’ll dig into the findings in three separate posts.

My first set of observations centers on investors’ biggest worries—longevity, healthcare and retirement. Respondents cited these as the things most likely to compromise their financial futures.

Not only have healthcare costs become a greater concern since last year, but among the unretired, two of the three top concerns involved health: 60% were worried about physical decline in retirement, and 52% about cognitive decline.

The other top concern is a common one: fear that you might live longer than your assets. Despite that widespread worry, the research found that 39% of Americans were not saving for retirement—the third-highest number among the 18 countries surveyed.

A crisis of confidence?

The reasons for not saving are many, but there are some interesting connections between confidence levels and the decision to save (or not).   Nearly 60% of savers are positive about their financial future versus only 37% of non-savers. When asked if they were confident in their financial decision-making, 48% of savers said “yes” compared to just 21% of non-savers.

The findings are similar across those who seek advice in managing their assets and those who don’t: 68% of advice-seekers are positive about their future vs. 46% of non-seekers; and 66% of advice-seekers are confident versus only 30% of non-seekers.

To some extent, it’s a game of chicken and egg. Savers are more confident in their financial future. Are they confident because they are saving or saving because they are confident?

In reality, it matters not. The outcome is the same: Those taking action and seeking advice are more prepared for retirement.

Knowledge is power

The obvious question: If saving for retirement and seeking financial advice tend to make people more positive, confident, and able to stay on track, then why aren’t more people doing it?

The results show that risk, and investors’ understanding of it, is an important factor. I’ll explore that in my next post. But our work with financial advisors in helping to construct investor portfolios leads me to a few action items worth consideration:

1. Commit to a plan

A financial plan is an important first step. It encourages saving and discipline by defining your goals and time horizon for achieving them. Committing to a plan provides structure and accountability.

2. Seek help

The ability to monitor your plan and seek advice—either through technological or human means—is essential to tracking progress and gaining confidence in your direction. Of the 53% of respondents who said they either aren’t on track or have no idea, roughly 9 in 10 are not receiving financial advice. Of those who either think or know they are on track, more than half are seeking advice.

3. Acknowledge your feelings

Positivity and confidence will ebb and flow with the markets. That’s ok. A sound plan and a source of guidance can help you to stay disciplined, particularly in those moments when your confidence is tested.

Patrick Nolan is the Portfolio Strategist within BlackRock’s Portfolio Solutions group. He is a regular contributor to The Blog.

Investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of June 2017 and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader.

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