In uncertain economic times, removing some of the uncertainty with a comprehensive financial plan can help put your mind at ease.

A survey conducted in May by Princeton Survey Research Associates International supports this idea. The 2012 Household Financial Planning survey found that  people who plan feel more confident about their financial decision-making, manage to save more money, and feel better about their progress in saving for financial goals.

What’s more, the benefits are not limited to the affluent, according to the survey. In all four income categories used for analysis, planners were found to be significantly more confident than those without a comprehensive financial plan. They were also more likely to feel on pace with meeting all their specific financial goals, such as saving for retirement, emergencies and college (50 percent vs. 32 percent). Planners were also more likely than non-planners to describe themselves as “living comfortably” (48 percent vs. 22 percent).

In fact, the survey provides strong evidence that those with modest incomes may benefit most from planning, because families with fewer financial resources are most vulnerable to credit card debt spiraling out of control.  Having a financial plan is associated with handling credit card bills in a way that minimizes risk of debt problems, according to the researchers. Among those in the $25,000-$49,999 income category, 46 percent of those with a plan say they usually pay their credit card bill in full each month, compared with 26 percent of non-planners. The margin is 41 percent to 16 percent between planners and non-planners in the under $25,000 category.

“Financial planning remains a critical factor in separating those who are on track to meet their financial goals from those who are falling behind,” stated the authors of the survey report, sponsored by the CFP Board and the Consumer Federation of America.

Click here to read a PDF version of the full report: 2012 Household Financial Planning Survey