Things were a lot simpler a few decades ago. Back then pensions were more common, so many people weren’t really exposed to investing. If you were fortunate enough to own an investment account, it was probably comprised of a few stock and perhaps some bonds. Social Security retirement benefits were also pretty much a sure thing.
After a while we started to witness a paradigm shift - particularly with the evolution of employer sponsored retirement accounts. Many companies decided that they no longer wanted to bear the investment risk of traditional pension plans and starting moving toward profit sharing plans like 401(k)s. This shifted the investing responsibility (and risk) from the employer to the employee, and most people were not ready for that. There were other dynamics as well. We saw the advent of IRAs, traditional and Roth, and other more complex retirement sponsored programs as well. Retirement account rules and legislation also became more complex - and more taxation issues came into play. We also saw an explosion of investment products which created an overwhelming number of choices for investors. Along with this, the financial services industry began to grow and the lines of demarcation between brokers, banks, and insurance companies became more blurry. We even started to see some accounting and law firms offer some financial planning and investment services. But too many of these companies and firms still approach their clients through the old and antiquated business model – one based on selling (like the stock-broker years before). This simply doesn’t address the public’s need for advice with more complex personal finance issues. I think this has created some real challenges for people looking for assistance with their personal finances and investments.