Many middle-class people need retirement planning help from financial advisors but they aren't getting it. Why not?

A recent study, Barriers to Financial Advice for Non-Affluent Consumers, says attitudes of middle-class savers as well as those of advisors often stand in the way.

Many non-affluent people do not trust advisors who sell products because they feel the advisors have an inherent conflict of interest, says the study, done by the Society of Actuaries. It adds that the recent chaotic financial market has made consumers even more suspicious of the financial services profession. Instead, consumers seek advice from family and friends, who they view as more trustworthy. Other non-affluent consumers lack the financial knowledge to seek and utilize financial advice, the study says.

Financial advisors, in many cases, are not helping the situation because most firms focus on affluent people. Most non-affluent people are viewed as less profitable because an advisor may need to spend more time and resources to help them. "There is also a cultural disconnect between financial advisors, who are used to servicing wealthy clients, and non-affluent consumers from different cultural backgrounds," the study says.

"The need for professional, customized financial advice is compelling; the complexity and uniqueness of each person's financial situation and retirement savings challenges require customized solutions, which in many cases are better delivered by properly credentialed, trained and motivated professions," says Janet Deskins, a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and senior vice president at Genworth Financial.

Dan Iannicola Jr., a former U.S. Treasury official and co-author of the study, adds, "Millions of Americans are at risk of entering retirement without the resources necessary to maintain their standard of living."  

The findings are important to financial advisors trying to expand their practices beyond the traditional focus on affluent clients and serves to identify barriers advisors may face, the survey concludes.