Many Affluent Feeling More Stable in ’12: Merrill Survey

Investors are getting used to 'The New Normal' and adjusting their economic and financial behavior accordingly, the latest Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey shows

According to the latest results of the Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey released Thursday, close to 45% of Americans accept the tough economic conditions. Plus, the vast majority of these investors, nearly 95%, feel better prepared than ever to cope with economic uncertainty, and more than half (58%) see themselves as more stable than last year.

“At a time when stability around the world is harder to find, it is encouraging to see investor sentiment and personal outlooks improving,” says John Thiel (left), head of U.S. Wealth Management and the Private Banking and Investment Group for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, in a press release. “Having a handle of one’s financial life and a feeling that economic uncertainty can be weathered are important steps toward increasing confidence and financial security.”

Overall, one-third of affluent families say they feel more in control of their financial lives, and many have taken steps to gain greater control by sticking to a budget (32%) and setting tangible goals for their future (28%). In addition, 33% of respondents said they are living more within their means.

Affluent Americans’ outlook on 2013 can best be described as cautiously optimistic, according to Merrill. Some 30% are feeling optimistic and nearly half (45%) express hope about their financial situation for the year ahead.

When asked specifically how they anticipate their financial situation may change during 2013, 35% believe it will improve, while 41% expect it to remain about the same.

Among respondents with a positive outlook on 2013, 45% cite their ability to take advantage of investment opportunities as the top reason they believe their financial situation will improve next year. Other reasons include:

  • Greater discipline in their spending habits (36%)
  • Having less or lowered their debt (32%)
  • Opportunities for career advancement (26%).

The majority of those who believe their financial situation will not improve in 2013. In that group, 61%, cite the impact of ongoing market volatility on their investments as a key barrier. Many of them, 23%, also say their dependents (children, parents and other family members) continue to be a drain on their finances.

The survey of 1,000-plus investors with at least $250,000 in investible assets was conducted in August.

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