News, Syndicated Studies

Survey: In a Dramatic Turnaround, Financial Professionals’ Optimism in the Investment Outlook Nearly Doubles

Financial Consumers Also More Confident if a Bit More Cautious


Washington, DC (September 27, 2023) – Financial professionals are far more optimistic about the market this year than last, and they’re more optimistic than the clients they serve.

Greenwald Research’s just-released 11th annual Retiree Insights Program Surveys found 64% of financial professionals express optimism about the current investment outlook, nearly double the 34% in 2022. And the number of financial professionals expressing pessimism was just 8%, down markedly from 25% last year.

Although market optimism is not as bullish as it was back in 2021, financial professionals now have higher expectations for the total investment return they believe they can secure for their clients over the next 12 months. Why the higher expectations? “Fixed investments,” says Doug Kincaid, Greenwald’s Managing Director for Financial Services. With current high interest rates, “Financial professionals now expect a 6.7% return on fixed investments over the next 12 months – more than triple their forecast for last year and double what they expected the year before. They’re optimistic about equity returns, too – predicting an 8% return this year versus 6% in 2022.”

Consumers are a bit more cautious. Under half (46%) expressed optimism, but that’s still up significantly from 31% last year. Consumers expressing pessimism about the investment outlook plunged from 36% to 18%.

“There’s a deeper uncertainty about the broader economy among consumers,” Kincaid says. “Only 28% of them believe the economy is heading in the right direction, compared to 54% of financial professionals.”

Politics & Media

Financial professionals say the impact of politics and media reports about the economy heighten consumer worries and influence their decision-making. The survey found the political environment is the top worry for consumers (with 83% saying they worry about it), far ahead of inflation, a possible recession, and global conflicts/crises. Nine in 10 professionals say clients ages 50-70 bring bad financial ideas to them that they find on social media. Eight in 10 agree that clients are more pessimistic about the market when there is heavy media coverage of it.

Benchmarking Returns

Consumers’ top benchmark (56%) for evaluating the management of their investments is how they compare to previous years – and a nearly equal number of financial professional professionals (57%) agree. However, professionals overestimate clients’ reliance on other benchmarks, including comparison to a specific index’s returns (51% of professionals say that’s important to consumers, but only 29% of consumers view it as important).

Pros & Cons of Artificial Intelligence

Both financial professionals and consumers are uncomfortable with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a role in the delivery of financial advice and retirement planning. In both groups, only one in 10 are extremely/very comfortable with AI, and only about a quarter are somewhat comfortable.

Nevertheless, financial professionals say the use of AI is not disappearing anytime soon: 7 in 10 disagree with the idea that AI is just a trend. While half of professionals believe AI is a threat to their profession, they do see ways AI can be beneficial to them. For instance, 67% say AI tools could help with customer relationship management through personalized client communications, lead generation, appointment scheduling, and client onboarding. The same number says AI could be useful in real-time market analysis, monitoring markets and providing up-to-date information about market trends, news, and investment opportunities. And 6 in 10 say AI could be beneficial for investment portfolio optimization, retirement savings planning, and/or risk assessment and management.

Professional-Client Communications

As volatility has declined and as consumer optimism about the markets and the investment outlook has increased, consumers’ desire for more frequent communications with their financial professionals has fallen – from 40% last year to 30% this year. On the other hand, financial professionals say they want to have more communication with their clients – a little over 60%, much like last year.

Challenges of Changing Retirement Ages

Financial professionals say a greater variance in the age that clients retire has presented new challenges for retirement income planning. Nearly 7 in 10 professionals see they’ve seen more variance in retirement ages, and half of the retirees surveyed say they retired earlier than planned. Six in 10 consumers who haven’t retired and work from home say they are more likely to postpone retirement because of the flexibility of their work. Retirement age changes complicate retirement income planning: a whopping 94% of professionals say earlier retirement makes income planning challenging, and 75% say the same for clients who change how they plan to transition into retirement. Perhaps because of these changing dynamics professionals say about 29% of their retired clients need more lifetime income, up from 22% two years ago.

About the 2023 Retiree Insights Program Surveys

The survey was conducted in July 2023, with 301 financial professionals and 1,003 consumers participating. For more information about the Retiree Insights Program, contact Doug Kincaid at

Greenwald Research is a leading independent custom research firm and consulting partner to the health and wealth industries that applies creative quantitative and qualitative methods to produce knowledge that helps companies stay competitive and navigate industry change. By leveraging deep subject matter expertise and a trusted consultative approach, Greenwald offers comprehensive services for weaving rich research stories that answer strategic business questions.

Doug Kincaid
Managing Director, Financial Services