Advisors have long thought they make a difference in their clients’ lives. But now they have proof, thanks to new research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research group.

Low-income individuals who set retirement savings targets with input from a financial advisor reduced the risk of running out of money in retirement by anywhere from 9.1 to 12.6 percentage points, depending on family status and gender.  For the highest-income individuals, the difference was narrower, ranging from 6.3 to 11.0 percentage points, according to the analysis.

The use of an online calculator also lowered the much-feared retirement risk.  Individuals in the lowest-income quartile who used an online calculator decreased the risk by anywhere from 14.6 to 18.2 percentage points.  For the highest-income individuals, the difference ranged from 8.7 to 14.7 percentage points.

“As American workers bear a growing responsibility for accumulating retirement income and managing the drawdown of those savings during retirement, it is more important than ever that households be able to set adequate targets for their retirement savings,” Jack VanDerhei, EBRI’s research director and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

Unfortunately, just over a quarter of investors use either a financial advisor or an online calculator to set retirement savings targets. Nearly half (45%) simply guess.

Not surprisingly, those who guessed increased their probability of running out of money in retirement. For the lowest-income individuals, the risk increased anywhere from 5.7 to 8.3 percentage points, depending on family and gender. 

The research is based on EBRI’s 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey, analyzed using EBRI’s Retirement Security Projection Model.

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