While investments have always been difficult for consumers to figure out, the ideas behind financial planning are still relatively new, and as the field grows it seems to get harder. There has been a surge in the available financial products, and much of the decision-making framework keeps changing.
The law with respect to taxes, retirement plans, and estate planning seems to stay in a perpetual state of flux. In 2001, the government overhauled the U.S. Tax Code. In 2003, they did it again. Both sets of tax laws are loaded with provisions that keep the laws and what you need to know for planning purposes changing.
The financial planning marketplace is very different than it was just a few years ago. In the past ten (15) years the following common investment vehicles either came into being or reached mainstream acceptance: Roth IRAs, Exchange-traded funds, 529 college savings plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (Education IRAs), Series I bonds, Treasury Inflation-Indexed Securities (known more commonly as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS), separately managed accounts (SMAs), hedge funds and online trading.
All of these offerings have greatly increased the options available for consumers, and freedom of choice is a great thing. Unfortunately, choosing wisely can be difficult, and sometimes having so many options makes it harder for people to figure out what to do.
As a financial planning practitioner it is a constant challenge trying to keep myself and my clients properly informed; and educating the public is no picnic either. Financial planning, for the most part, even with the wide-ranging choices, can still be a pretty simple process if you have someone who is highly qualified and independent helping you with it.