Most affluent individuals still would rather work one on one with a trusted adviser than use online tools for financial planning, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey found.
In B of A Merrill's quarterly survey of 1,000 affluent investors, 57% of the investors said they go to their financial advisers for advice after making a financial mistake or financially irresponsible decision — the same percentage that turn to their spouse or partner. Forty-two percent consult an adviser before making an expensive purchase. Thirteen percent do not consult an adviser but said they feel they should.
Lyle LaMothe, the head of U.S. wealth management at the Bank of America division, said this reflects the tough economy; wealthy individuals want to deal directly with advisers whom they trust.
"I think it is fair to say that, when a financial event becomes significant, people don't turn to machines, they turn to advisers for information," LaMothe said in an interview. "They turn to people that they trust for advice and guidance when the moment is critical."
The Internet is a "good portal for information, but investors still want a level of advice," LaMothe said.
Investors want more from their advisers by way of "communication and dialogue," he said.
"When the market was healthier and the economy was more robust, perhaps meeting on a quarterly or monthly basis was enough, but now investors feel that they can trust an adviser more if they speak with them more," LaMothe said.
Affluent Americans increasingly expect they will have to delay retirement. Forty-five percent said they expect to retire later than they had originally planned, versus 31% in the first quarter and 29% in January.
"Investors are still skeptical," said Dean Athanasia, the head of B of A's global wealth and investment management and of Merrill Edge, the company's online brokerage platform.
"They are still seeking returns, but they have low tolerance for risk," Athanasia continued. "They want to be sure that they are investing and working with advisers to proceed in the best way possible. Clients feel that the economy is coming back but there are going to be some bumps along the way."
LaMothe said financial advisers will play a vital role in "educating and reeducating" young investors about the historic value in the market.
According to the survey, 50% of affluent individuals describe themselves as having a low tolerance for risk and as gravitating toward more conservative investment vehicles. Fifty-two percent of investors between the ages of 18 and 34 described their risk tolerance as low, versus 45% in the 35-50 age bracket and 46% of those 51 to 64 years old.