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New program designed to encourage more Ohioans to save for retirement

Special to the Legal News

Published: April 13, 2017

Is saving and investing a foreign concept for you? If so, you are far from alone in Ohio.

A new survey shows that more than half (59 percent) of Ohio adults don't have a financial plan for retirement.

That's prompted six Ohio and national organizations - including Westerville-based Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education and the Ohio Commerce Department/ Division of Securities - are partnering to announce the launch of the "Building the Bridge to Investor Education and Protection for Ohioans" program.

"We designed this program to help bridge the gap to investor education and protection, and to connect local professionals and organizations in an effort to create a more inclusive continuum of financial care for Ohioans," said Rebecca Wiggins, executive director at the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.

The other four sponsors of the campaign are Investor Protection Trust, the Investor Protection Institute, Detroit Public Television and the "When I'm 65" documentary.

Launching in May, the Building the Bridge program will feature the airing of the DPTV documentary on Ohio public television, three community events - including one in Columbus next month - and pro bono financial counseling and planning.

A Public Policy Polling survey of 738 Ohio adults, conducted from March 20-22, shows the need of the program in the findings.

This survey showed that lack of knowledge and mistrust are two key reasons why so many Ohioans do not have financial plans.

Of those in Ohio without a plan, 23 percent said they don't know enough "to feel comfortable" saving and investing for retirement.

"Our role as Ohio's securities regulator is to help investors research investment advisors, stockbrockers and investment products before they invest their money," said Andrea Seidt, securities commissioner at the Ohio Department of Commerce. "One of our goals as a state agency is to build awareness among investors about safe financial behavior to help prevent investment fraud, and we know that information and education are the best defense against Ohioans losing their hard-earned savings to fraudsters."

Men are also far more likely than women to cite distrust of both the markets and financial professionals as their top reason not to have a plan by a margin of 14 percent versus 3 percent.

One telling result? Lack of funds is cited by just a third of those who are not planning for retirement.

Of those in Ohio without a plan, only 34 percent say they don't have enough money to save or invest for retirement - which is true of 27 percent of 18-29 year olds and 49 percent of 45-60 year olds without financial plans.

"The survey results show that too many Ohio residents believe they cannot find affordable financial counseling," said Wiggins. "As a national nonprofit organization, we believe that all individuals and families - regardless of income or background - deserve access to quality professional financial counseling and education."

Other survey findings include nearly six in 10 Ohio residents think it "costs a lot" to use a financial counselor or planner, and two in five do not understand the difference between a "planner" and a "counselor."

Also, only 24 percent of Ohio residents who got a "million-dollar windfall" would use most of the money to save or invest for retirement. Instead, nearly a third would instead pay off debts, and another three in 10 would share much of the money with family members.

However, of those Ohioans using a financial professional to help with their investments, 61 percent made their decision based on a recommendation from a relative, friend, co-worker or neighbor versus 24 percent who did their own research into the professional's background and services.

In addition, 76 percent said they checked to see if the person was licensed to business in Ohio, however only 17 percent actually contacted the Ohio Department of Commerce- Securities Division, which is where they would be most likely to verify proper licensing.

The study also found that younger investors in Ohio may be more inclined than their elders to check out financial professionals.

More than half of 18-29 year olds said they contacted the securities division, versus just 8 percent of 46-65 year olds.

Don Blandin, president and CEO of Investor Protection Trust, said it all comes down to education.

"People who are better educated about investing can be more financially secure and less susceptible to fraud," he said. "We are working as a partner to support this important Ohio initiative because we believe that all consumers deserve access to the highest standard of financial education and information."

For more information about the Building the Bridge program and the full survey findings, visit www.wi65.org/ohio.

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