Participating in a 401(k) plan may help workers develop the discipline to save, yet many plan participants remain uncomfortable making investment decisions on their own.

But only 26% of U.S. adults say they have a financial adviser, compared to 69% who say they don’t have one, according to a recent study by Northwestern Mutual.

U.S. working adults who seek the help of an adviser are more likely to describe themselves as savers and have less debt than those without an adviser, according to the survey. Seventy-six percent of people with an adviser consider themselves to be savers compared to only 62% of those who don’t use an adviser. Sixty-four percent of those with an adviser say they have more savings than debt, compared to 39% of those without an adviser, and 35% of those who don’t talk to someone about their finances say they have more debt than savings, compared to only 18% of those with a financial adviser.

In a recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, Northwestern Mutual found that 26% of adults who use a financial adviser consider themselves highly disciplined when it comes to managing their money and 46% consider themselves disciplined. In comparison, 13% of individuals who don’t use an adviser consider themselves highly disciplined and 33% consider themselves disciplined when it comes to managing their finances.

Also see: Why employees need 401(k) investment advice

Those who ask for help with their finances end up with a more diversified portfolio. Seventy-seven percent of those who use an adviser say they have a savings account and 61% say they have an individual retirement account, according to the survey. They are also more likely to invest in stocks, mutual funds, life insurance, real estate, bonds, annuities and long-term care insurance, than those who don’t have a financial adviser.

Only 23% of those without a financial adviser say they have an IRA and only 61% have a savings account. Nearly a quarter (24%) say they don’t have any of the above, meaning they don’t have savings of any kind.

While four in 10 adults say they have set financial goals, only half of that number say they have written a financial plan around their goals and fewer than one in 10 believe their financial plan could withstand market cycles, according to the survey.

Forty percent of those surveyed said they set financial goals but only 8% said they wrote their goals down with the help of an adviser and 12% said they developed a written financial plan by themselves.

Also see: Comment period closes on DOL fiduciary rule: Industry reaction

So what prompts people to seek out the advice of a financial professional? According to Northwestern Mutual, the majority are driven by circumstance rather than strategy, with 59% of survey respondents saying they received a windfall of cash and 38% saying they had an unexpected financial emergency.

Thirty percent of respondents believe they need a certain level of income or assets to have a financial adviser, while 27% need to feel they can afford to pay one before they can get one, according to the survey.

Having an adviser on hand contributes to the happiness of those who have already entered into retirement, the survey found, with 83% of those with an adviser claiming to be happy in retirement compared with 78% who don’t have a financial adviser.

The 2015 Planning & Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual sought insights about U.S. attitudes and behaviors toward money, goal setting and priorities. The survey was conducted online between Jan. 12 and Jan. 30, 2015.

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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