Too busy to learn

Americans 45 and older, who control more than half of the nation’s consumer economy, lack the time to manage their finances properly, according to a recent report by the AARP.
Today’s older consumers face a more complicated marketplace and more time constraints than any previous generation, often leading to confusion in making decisions, according to the AARP’s fourth annual Beyond 50 report titled, "A Report to the Nation on Consumers in the Marketplace."
"It should give us pause that while 45 and older Americans are a critical force in the economy, individual consumers face many obstacles to effective decision-making," said John Rother, AARP director of policy and strategy. "These obstacles need to be addressed quickly."
A companion AARP national survey indicates that 27 percent of baby boomers, ages 40 to 57, say they are worse financial managers than their parents because of time constraints, the complexity of choices and the vast number of choices.
The survey was done for AARP by ICR of Media, Pa. About 1,900 people were interviewed over the phone earlier this year for the survey.
The AARP’s annual report says families are spending more time than ever at work, reducing time spent on other activities, including financial planning. At the same time, baby boomers are more likely than their parents to be responsible for investment decisions about their retirement savings and face an increasingly complex array of products and services to choose from, according to the AARP.
The AARP report says the nation needs to work to improve consumer financial literacy and help consumers in isolated communities and underserved markets make financial choices.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Investor Education is one resource for programs that provide information and analysis on financial planning.
"I’m not at all surprised at the results of this (AARP) study," said Paul Haussman, director of the Center for Investor Education at the UWM School of Continuing Education. "The world of financial management is something that becomes more complex almost on a daily basis. People easily can become confused and frustrated trying to do what’s best for them. With so many options, it’s difficult to know how best to create as secure a plan as possible.
"Among other things, the study encourages a stronger level of financial literacy, and that is one of the primary areas of focus for our programs," Haussman said. "Our courses cover such basic issues as mutual funds, stocks and bonds and general information about the securities industry."
The Center for Investor Education offers comprehensive courses, overview courses and sessions on current topics. The programs are presented at the school’s downtown location, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. The evening courses range from one to eight sessions.

June 11, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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