March 26, 2013

Time Not on Our Side, Americans Say

Pace of society distracting, hard to manage

A third of survey respondents found their constant connection to personal networks distracting. A third of survey respondents found their constant connection to personal networks distracting.

Nearly a quarter of Americans say their biggest obstacle in planning for retirement is that they don’t have enough time, according to the 2013 Planning and Progress study released Tuesday by Northwestern Mutual.

Harris Interactive polled nearly 1,550 Americans over 25 in January for the survey, which Northwestern Mutual will release in several parts over the next few weeks.

“There’s an interesting parallel that exists between managing your finances and managing your day-to-day life in that it’s so easy to let short-term needs and wants overshadow the more critical long-term goals,” Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president, said in a statement. “We’re all susceptible, particularly today, as we’re often overloaded with information and overscheduled.” 

For most people surveyed by Northwestern Mutual, a financial plan is nothing more than a “general sense” of their goals and how they will achieve them. About a third have precise goals and plans to achieve them (down from 38% in 2012), but admit they don’t always stick to those plans. Just 16% of respondents said they rarely deviated from their established financial plan.

However, the study found that among the highly disciplined planners, nearly a quarter were under age 32 and 14% were between 33 and 46. Just 14% of boomers were considered highly disciplined in their financial plan, even though younger respondents were more likely to say that their constant connection to personal networks through email, instant messaging or mobile devices distracts them from their long-term goals. Most respondents were able to manage those connections, but 31% of all respondents said they were distracting.

Even though most respondents reported having a handle on their personal connections, the overall pace of society makes it difficult for 69% of respondents to focus on long-term goals. While boomers showed they were better able to avoid distraction from their connections (30% said they were distracted by email and mobile devices), they struggled more than younger age groups when it came to sticking to their goals (74% versus 61% among Gen Y and 63% for Gen X).

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