June 24, 2011

Attention Advisors: Financial Help Tops Survey of ‘Distracted’ Americans

Study respondents cite pace of society as cause; ‘baby steps’ help

If you thought discipline to follow through on long-term goals seems to be lacking in today’s society, it seems you’re correct. According to a new study released by Northwestern Mutual on Monday, Americans were feeling the strain of keeping up with all the distractions of a fast-paced life, and it showed in their ability to work toward objectives.

The “Stick With It” study revealed that 74% of Americans are having a tough time keeping their feet on the path to eventual rewards, be they financial objectives, family-oriented targets, professional ambitions, or health goals. Another interesting aspect of the study shows that when it comes to goal-setting, Americans set more financial goals than other types of goals, with 72% focusing on some distant ambition. Families came in second, with 62% setting goals that centered on loved ones. Fitness (57%), work (55%) and diet (54%) rounded out the big five.

In a key finding for advisors, although people set more financial goals, they follow through less in that category than the others mentioned. Only 55% said financial objectives inspired them the best to stay on target, and 47% said financial goals were the ones they needed the most help with.

People have developed coping mechanisms to help them stay on target, though. The study, conducted by research firm Market Probe, found that baby steps were key; 67% say “setting small interim goals” helps them follow through. Other means of keeping the momentum going are “allowing yourself to make mistakes” (62%) and “holding yourself accountable” (60%).

Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president, said in a statement, “Achieving long-term goals is particularly challenging at a time when just about everything around us is getting more immediate. The good news is that Americans appear to be adapting. The people who participated in this study said loud and clear—the best way to stay focused is to take baby steps, expect setbacks, and never let yourself off the hook. In short: don’t expect it to be easy, but stick with it.”

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