This post was authored by Adem Tumerkan, Dunham's Content Writer. If you have questions concerning today's topic, please call us at (858) 964 - 0500. Hold us to higher standards.

As a financial advisor, a major part of your job is to steer clients and keep them on a better path.

But that may not always be easy. In fact, it’s rather difficult.

Many aspects – from taxes and market fluctuations to trusts and insurance – already keep you busy enough.

Complicating matters further are the volatile perceptions clients hold about economic realities.

So, let's delve into these challenges and explore how you, as an advisor, can effectively address them.

People’s Perceptions Can Vary Wildly Compared To Reality

A survey last year made me pause and scratch my head.

According to a GOBankingRates survey1 last year, roughly two-thirds of Americans wanted government financial assistance in the new year as “inflation relief checks”.

·        62% of the population is in favor of this relief, 16% of respondents remain undecided on the topic, and 22% are not in favor of more stimulus or inflation relief checks.

But the irony is that further government stimulus checks to households would only spur inflation higher – reinforcing the very problem.


Well, because more government checks – especially when fueling the deficit - implies injecting more money into the system, which induces more spending by households, and likely pushes prices higher.

Yet 62% of those surveyed either disregarded or weren’t aware of this fact and still wanted more money to offset higher prices.

·         Which is understandable: if prices go higher, it seems logical that more money will fix it. But history has shown us time and time again this doesn’t work and only makes things potentially worse2.

This survey cracks open a window, revealing a potential lack of financial literacy among many individuals. It suggests a clear need for support and guidance from an advisor who provides financial knowledge and experience.

Another more recent survey from late May 2024 – published by the Guardian and Harris Poll3 – showed that 55% of people believe the U.S. economy is in recession (yet a recession is back-to-back quarters of negative GDP growth, which we haven’t seen yet).

Other key points from the survey showed –

·         49% think the S&P 500 is down for the year, even though it rose by about 24% in 2023 and over 12% this year (as of this survey being published).

·         49% believe unemployment is at a 50-year high, though it’s been under 4% - near a 50-year low.

·         Meanwhile, the vast majority of respondents, 72%, believe inflation is increasing. However, inflation has significantly dropped from its post-COVID peak of 9.1% and has fluctuated between 3% and 4% annually.

A graph of a graph showing the growth of the economy

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

“What Americans are saying in this data is: Economists may say things are getting better, but we’re not feeling it where I live,” said John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll. 

And while this survey does have some political bias in the questions (asking respondents what party they affiliate with), there's one thing Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all agree on: they don’t know who to trust when it comes to learning about the economy.

·         In both September and May, over 60% of respondents expressed skepticism about economic news.

This last tidbit touches on the core theme of this article – that there is so much noise in the financial world that people don’t know what to believe or who to trust.

That’s why having a financial advisor may prove helpful when guiding clients are drowning in doubt.

In another study - according to Northwestern Mutual4 - Americans now believe they'll need $1.46 million saved to retire comfortably, marking an all-time high. This figure has increased from $1.27 million in last year's survey and significantly up from $951,000 in 2020.

A graph with a line going up

Description automatically generated

I wrote to you about this more in-depth before in Preparing for Retirement: Understanding Challenges and Options – but the gist is how significantly people have re-evaluated their retirement needs.

Certainly, the recent surge in inflation post-COVID likely contributed to this perception.

But in reality, inflation has risen by about 21% since January 20205. And while significant over just a few years, it's still less than half of the 50% increase that Americans believe they'll need for a comfortable retirement.

Will inflation continue to rise? Will retirement savings requirements increase further? Who knows.

But the perception versus the reality of retirement balances delicately – underscoring the value of having a financial advisor when these complex long-term plans.

Wrapping It Up

Dealing with financial perceptions versus reality is daunting. And whether it’s widespread misconceptions about government stimulus and economic indicators to inflated retirement savings expectations, clients often find themselves adrift in a sea of conflicting information and begin doubting mainstream news (and understandably so).

Here Are Three Key Areas Where a Financial Advisor Can Help:

·         Guiding Economic Realities: Assist clients in understanding and navigating volatile economic perceptions versus actual realities, such as inflation rates and market indicators.

·         Financial Literacy Education: Provide crucial financial education to debunk misconceptions and guide informed decisions on topics like government stimulus, retirement planning, and market behaviors.

·         Long-term Financial Planning: Offer strategic guidance in developing robust long-term financial plans, including retirement savings strategies tailored to current economic conditions and future trends like inflation and market fluctuations.

As economic uncertainties persist, the role of a financial advisor becomes increasingly vital in providing clarity, expertise, and strategic planning to ensure sound financial decisions in an uncertain world.


1.      Vast Majority of Americans Want More Stimulus Checks in 2023 — What Are the Chances You’ll Get One? (

2.      Stimulus money boosted inflation by 2.6%—but it also likely prevented an even worse crisis, Fed study finds (

3.      Majority of Americans wrongly believe US is in recession – and most blame Biden | US economy | The Guardian

4.      Do you actually need $1.46 million to retire comfortably? (

5.      Unemployment Rate (UNRATE) | FRED | St. Louis Fed (


This communication is general in nature and provided for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be considered or relied upon as legal, tax or investment advice or an investment recommendation, or as a substitute for legal or tax counsel. Any investment products or services named herein are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered an offer to buy or sell, or an investment recommendation for, any specific security, strategy or investment product or service. Always consult a qualified professional or your own independent financial professional for personalized advice or investment recommendations tailored to your specific goals, individual situation, and risk tolerance. All examples are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes only.

Dunham & Associates Investment Counsel, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser and Broker/Dealer. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services and securities offered through Dunham & Associates Investment Counsel, Inc.