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Written by: Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP® and Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE 

Personal finance research informs high-quality financial education briefings, publications, and 1:1 financial counseling with clients. Below are findings and implications from three recent studies:

Financial Advice Deserts

This study by Chatterjee and Fan (2023) introduced the concept of “financial advice deserts” (FADs) which, like food deserts, provide people with little or no access, in this case to financial advice. The study used data from multiple sources about the availability of CFP® professionals and financial behaviors of survey respondents in various states. Findings indicated a negative association between living in FAD states and both having retirement accounts and contributing regularly to retirement accounts.

  • Implications: Findings of this study underscore the need for providing greater access to financial advice and improving financial literacy among financially marginalized populations residing in FAD states. They also illustrate the issue of geographic inequality in terms of access to financial advice. While service members have access to Personal Financial Managers at their installation, they may live in FADs at other points in their life.

Financial Worries

Ryu and Fan (2023) examined the association between financial worries and psychological stress among U.S. adults. Their results showed that higher financial worries were significantly associated with higher psychological distress. This association was also more pronounced among the unmarried and the unemployed, lower-income households, and renters than their counterparts, perhaps due to their limited coping resources. Conversely, employment, income, and assets are protective factors against psychological distress.

  • Implications: Helping clients better manage their finances and reduce financial worries can potentially buffer psychological distress. Financial counseling and therapy services that can help reduce financial stress should be customized to target financially vulnerable populations. Financial practitioners and educators should also help improve their financial literacy, confidence, and decision-making capability.

Financial Planning

Attributes of households that engage in higher levels of family financial planning were studied by Wann and Burke-Smalley (2023). They found greater levels of financial planning when households reported more positive responses in planning for retirement, saving for emergencies, and establishing a will. Frequency of participation in financial education, and use of financial websites or apps to help with financial tasks were positively related to higher levels of family financial planning.

  • Implications: This study added value to previous literature by examining characteristics of families that plan for more than one future financial need, as many families do. Findings indicate that financial education and positive financial planning practices are positively related. Financial literacy programs are needed to increase individuals’ financial knowledge and effective use of financial websites and apps. This is especially true for vulnerable populations that are most lacking in financial literacy. 

 Chatterjee, S. & Fan, L. (2023). Surviving in financial advice deserts: limited access to financial advice and retirement planning behavior. International Journal of Bank Marketing, 41(1). 

Ryu, S. & Fan, L. (2023). The relationship between financial worries and psychological distress among U.S. adults. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 44, 16-33. 

Wann, C.R. & Burke-Smalley (2023). Attributes of households that engage in higher levels of financial planning. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 44, 98-113.