June 13, 2012

Americans Physically, Not Fiscally Fit

Less than a third say they’re financially healthy

Americans are doing a little to improve their financial health, but they could be doing a lot more. Americans are doing a little to improve their financial health, but they could be doing a lot more.

Americans feel they’re in good shape physically but don't have them same confidence about their financial health. Principal’s Financial Well-Being Index found that although 53% of Americans rate themselves as physically healthy, only 31% rate themselves financially healthy.

The Financial Well-Being Index is part of a quarterly survey conducted by Principal Financial Group among workers at business with 10 to 10,000 employees. The latest iteration found 84% of workers believe their physical health is an investment in their financial future.

This connection is clearly seen in the cost of health care later in life. Nearly 70% of respondents said they believed it was “extremely important” or “very important” to stay in good shape in order to avoid major health expenditures down the road. In May, Fidelity found a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2012 could need as much as $240,000 to cover medical expenses throughout retirement.

Survey results show that although respondents aren’t ignoring their financial health entirely, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Less than half of respondents said they are monitoring their spending levels. Twenty-eight percent have created a budget and 26% have re-evaluated their investments. Only 17% have a financial strategy.

The good news is that the number of workers with an emergency cash fund is climbing. Two-thirds of respondents report having an emergency fund, up from 61% in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Still, just over a third of respondents said they’re saving enough to retire comfortably, and 51% say they’re on track to achieve their financial goals. Those who work with an advisor are doing a little better; 62% say they’re on track, compared with 46% of workers without an advisor.

The top three reasons for poor financial health were not saving enough, debt and not starting saving early.

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