The beginning of the new calendar year is the traditional time to make resolutions to change your behavior or habits. And although plenty of people will use this time to focus on their diet or fitness routine, many others are focused on one thing and one thing only: their finances.
Resolutions can provide some important insight into what fears are driving Americans to try to find solutions. That’s why GOBankingRates conducted a survey of some 1,000 Americans to get a sense of what financial resolutions they’re going to focus on for 2019. The results show that — despite a booming economy and record low unemployment — plenty of Americans are still concerned about their finances.
A Quarter of Americans Are Worried About Their Finances in 2019
About one in four people polled responded that they’re worried about their finances in the coming year. And even that belies people’s worries as the 13-17 age group — many of whom are probably still living at home and attending high school — only had about one in 10 say they were worried about money. For people aged 35-44 and 55-64, one in three people revealed concerns about the state of their financial lives.
“It’s surprising that only a quarter of respondents are worried about their finances in 2019 because other GOBankingRates surveys have found nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and 58 percent have less than $1,000 in savings,” said Cameron Huddleston, personal finance expert and GOBankingRates’ Life + Money columnist. “It could mean that people feel confident about their financial situation despite any challenges they might be facing. But it also could suggest that many Americans might not even realize they’re in trouble financially.”
Women, meanwhile, are definitely more concerned about the issue than men. Some 29 percent of women answered that they’re concerned about their finances compared to just 22 percent for men.
|Which Americans Are the Most Worried About Their Finances in 2019?|
|Age/Gender||% of Respondents Who Are Worried|
|Ages 65 and Over||25%|
Many Americans Worry About ‘Not Having Enough to Get By’ in 2019
For those Americans who are worried about their finances, worrying about having enough money to get by is the most common response from those polled — overall and in each individual age group save for 55-64, where rising healthcare costs edged it out by a single percentage point. Worrying about not having enough to get by was most common for those in the 25-34 age group at 40 percent, but at least about one in three people or more cited the issue as a concern in each of the other groups.
|Americans’ Biggest Financial Worries for 2019, by Age and Gender|
|Falling Into Debt||Not Having Enough Money to Get By||Losing a Job||Losing a House, Car or Other Major Asset||Losing Money in the Stock Market||Rising Healthcare Costs||Having to Pay More in Taxes||Other|
|Ages 65 and Over||19%||31%||5%||5%||8%||24%||17%||2%|
|Survey respondents could select all that apply.|
Rising healthcare costs were also a major concern. The 55-64 age group had that as its most common response, but they were actually the second-highest response rate for that answer with the 45-54 age group coming back with 37 percent of respondents saying they were worried about the cost of healthcare.
Worries about debt and healthcare costs were indirectly related, as young adults were more concerned with debt, giving way to worries about healthcare being more prominent among older adults. About one in three Americans aged 25-34 cited going into debt as a concern, but that rate decreased in each older group. Healthcare cost worries increased, though, with each age group up to the 45-54 group, then decreased only slightly for 55-64 before dropping to 24 percent for those 65 and over — probably a function of the availability of Medicare to senior citizens.
Focusing on gender, women were markedly more concerned about finding a way to make ends meet, with worries about finding money to get by being cited by 41 percent of respondents compared to a rate of just 29 percent among men. The only other category with such a notable gap was concerns about rising healthcare costs, where 25 percent of women are worried compared to just 19 percent of men.
More Than One-Third of Americans Want to Save More Money Next Year
As for what Americans are planning on changing in regard to their finances in 2019, the most common response was both simple and direct: save more money. Over one in three respondents said saving more money was their financial resolution for the new year.
“One of the easiest ways to actually stick to this resolution is to automate savings,” Huddleston said. “Have contributions to a retirement account automatically deducted from your paycheck — or increase the amount you’re saving — so that the money gets set aside before you have a chance to spend it. Also set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a savings account to build an emergency fund — or have a portion of your paycheck deposited in a savings account.”
Saving more money was definitely a much more common answer for younger people, as about half of respondents under the age of 34 included that as their planned resolution. Paying down debt, meanwhile, is not a major concern the 13-17 age group — as one might hope — but it jumps to 20 percent for the 18-24 age group and is about 30 percent for each older bracket save for those aged 65 or over.
|Americans’ Financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2019, by Age and Gender|
|Save More Money||Pay Off Debt||Invest More||Buy a House||Find a New Job/Increase My Income||Put More Money Toward Retirement||Stick to a Monthly Budget||Other|
|Ages 65 and Over||18%||21%||4%||8%||1%||8%||18%||1%|
|Figures represent percentage of respondents who chose each answer option for the question, “What will be your financial New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019?” Survey respondents could select all that apply.|
For women, though, saving more money is a much higher priority as a New Year’s resolution than it is for men. Some 44 percent of women said that was their planned resolution compared to just 28 percent of men. Much of that gap, though, appears to be made up of men who don’t see a need to make a resolution: 37 percent of men said they wouldn’t be making a financial resolution for the new year compared to just 24 percent of women.
Americans Want to Save More Than $26,000 in 2019
But how much are people planning to save for the new year? The average savings goal in the survey was just over $26,000 — an impressive figure given that the national median salary is just $55,322.
Much of that is driven by a number from younger Americans that is most likely wildly optimistic. The average savings goal of those aged 13-17 — a group where one would expect full-time work to be relatively rare — was a whopping $39,221. That figure doesn’t fall far for young adults, though. Each age group through age 44 gave an average savings goal of at least $30,000 for 2019, dropping to just over $25,000 for ages 45-54 before falling below $10,000 for those 55 and older.
|Americans’ 2019 Savings Goals, by Age and Gender|
|Age/Gender||Average Savings Goal|
|Ages 65 and Over||$7,077|
At the end of the day, though, those figures are probably unrealistic. For starters, based on the 50-30-20 budget rule that allocates 20 percent of your income to savings, you would need to be making $130,000 a year after taxes to hit a savings goal of $26,000 in 2019. What’s more, previous GOBankingRates surveys have found that — regardless of what people are hoping to accomplish — the reality when it comes to saving money isn’t nearly as good. For example, the 2018 retirement survey found that some 42 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
Saving Money Is a More Popular Goal Than Finding Love, Traveling and More
So how does putting away more of your income rate as a New Year’s resolution? Highly.
The GOBankingRates survey also asked respondents to name their lifestyle New Year’s resolutions, such as traveling, finding love and exploring a new hobby. More than one-third of respondents said they are resolving to get in shape, and about one-quarter said they plan to spend more time with family and friends.
But when comparing the percentage of people who chose financial resolutions versus lifestyle resolutions, the survey found some financial goals outweighed the lifestyle goals. For example, a higher percentage of respondents said they wanted to save more money than said that they wanted to learn a new skill or hobby, quit a bad or unhealthy habit or even find love.
|Saving Money vs. Lifestyle New Year’s Resolutions|
|2019 New Year’s Resolutions||% of Respondents Who Chose This Resolution|
|Save More Money||36%|
|Donate or Volunteer More||8%|
|Quit a Bad or Unhealthy Habit||19%|
|Explore a New Skill or Hobby||20%|
|Spend More Time With Family and Friends||24%|
|Get in Shape/Eat Healthier||37%|
|Survey respondents could select more than one answer choice.|
Getting in shape/eating healthier was the only resolution with a higher response rate than saving more money, and it just edged it out at 37 percent of responses to 36 percent.
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Making Changes in Your Financial Life Can Be Easier Than You Think
The fact that so many people have major concerns about their financial picture might come as a relief to many who were worried that they were alone, however, the other good news is that some simple strategies can make saving more money an easy resolution to meet.
“One of the best things Americans can do to ease their financial worries is to get a clear picture of where they stand financially,” Huddleston said. Drawing up a budget or, as Huddleston suggests, simply figuring out how much debt you have can greatly ease financial tension as you’ll be able to create a plan to improve your finances. “Think of it like taking a cross-country trip. You have a much better chance of getting to where you want to go if you have a map or directions to guide you.”
There’s also an abundance of solid budgeting apps you can access that make tracking your spending and expenses simple. Apps like Chime or Qapital can set up regular, automatic transfers to savings and don’t require any action on your part. You can even use investing apps like Stash or Acorns to turn those recurring automatic donations into investments in stocks or bonds.
Meanwhile, a separate GOBankingRates survey found that a quarter of Americans are confident they’ll be rich one day, but many of them aren’t taking the necessary steps to get there.
More on Saving Money
- This Is the No. 1 Thing Americans Are Saving for (and It’s Not a Home)
- Most Americans Lack Savings to Pay for These Huge Emergencies
- It’s Cheaper to Own Than Rent a Home in These 27 Cities, Study Finds
- Watch: Treating Finances Like a Game Will Help You Get Rich
Methodology: This survey was commissioned by GOBankingRates and conducted by Survata. Survata interviewed 1,002 online respondents between Nov. 16, 2018, and Nov. 19, 2018. Respondents were asked the following questions: 1) What will be your financial New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019? Select all that apply. 2) What will be your lifestyle New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019? Select all that apply. 3) For this upcoming New Year, is it more important for you to stick to your financial goals or your lifestyle goals? 4) What is your overall target savings goal for 2019? 5) Are you worried about your personal finances in 2019? 6) Which of the following worries you when it comes to your finances in 2019? Select all that apply.