NEW YORK, Nov. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- WealthCounsel®, a nationwide organization of estate-planning attorneys, and Trusts & Estates® magazine today unveiled preliminary results from the Fifth Annual Industry Trends Survey. The electronic survey, which drew 1,085 responses, was conducted between Sept. 7 and Oct. 21, 2011 to identify trends in the industry and to probe the mindset of professional advisors regarding the impact of the economy on their clients.
Most (87 percent) of the respondents were estate-planning attorneys, while the remaining professionals were comprised of CPAs, certified financial planners (CFPs), registered reps and insurance professionals. In terms of client demographics, the majority of the respondents' married clients would likely be considered middle to upper middle class with 86 percent having an average net worth of $5 million or less. Twenty-three percent of married clients had an average net worth of less than $500,000, while only 15 percent had an average net worth of $5 million or more. The net worth of single clients was lower on average to that of married clients.
It was evident from the results that the post-2008 recession has caused serious concern among business-owner clients. One in five respondents report that many clients have gone out of business and about four in 10 respondents indicate that business clients have postponed the hiring of new employees and have taken on a "bunker mentality" while waiting for a recovery.
The frustration of respondents was notably high in the survey's written comments section. "I believe that partisan politics is the single greatest factor in bringing down my clients' businesses," wrote one respondent, while another stated, "The lack of clear tax policy direction and uncertainty is creating economic stagnation."
On the jobs front, professional advisors support the enactment of a bipartisan jobs plan as a top priority. Seventy-one percent of respondents say political leaders should explore incentives for American businesses to reshore jobs sent overseas. Many felt strongly that "real reforms are needed" to reduce outsourcing to foreign countries, to rebuild domestic manufacturing and to create jobs in high-growth industries such as clean energy.
With regard to the declining real estate market, 38 percent of respondents have seen some clients express concern or even panic as they were counting on their real estate assets to fund their retirement or long-term care needs. Thirty-five percent of respondents have some clients who have lost their homes or business properties to foreclosure. One respondent indicated that the inability of clients to sell their homes prevents them from moving into assisted living or nursing home facilities.
When asked to what degree the lack of financial literacy on the part of American consumers contributed to the subprime mortgage crises, 73 percent stated financial illiteracy played a role. However, many felt strongly that the primary causes were a combination of unethical mortgage brokers, failed government policies, absence of accountability and greed on the part of financial institutions, lenders and investors.
It may come as no surprise to learn that 91 percent believe that the budget deficit in the United States will ultimately lead to increased taxes in the future. But what may be one of the most concerning statistics to come out of the survey is the bleak picture for the nation's aging baby boom population. Advisors state that an average of only 29 percent of this massive demographic group has saved adequately for a 20-year retirement.
With regard to business growth for respondents, there is reason for optimism. While 43 percent have seen revenue decline or remain the same in the past year, 89 percent expect their businesses to grow over the next five years.
Complete findings from the survey will be published in a full report in January 2012 and available on the WealthCounsel website at www.wealthcounsel.com, as well as in the January issue of Trusts & Estates magazine.
About WealthCounsel, LLC
Established in 1997, WealthCounsel is a membership-based organization of more than 2,500 attorneys and the creator of the WealthDocx® estate planning drafting software used by practitioners in all 50 states. WealthCounsel shares ownership in ElderCounsel, LLC, and The Advisors Forum, LLC. Visit www.wealthcounsel.com.
About Trusts & Estates Magazine (Penton Media, Inc.)
Published since 1904, Trusts & Estates continues a long tradition of editorial excellence and credibility in the high-net-worth arena. Monthly issues focus on new tax legislation, ethics, investment strategies, financial planning, elder law, charitable giving and financial services. Visit www.trustsandestates.com.
SOURCE WealthCounsel, LLC