According to the results of a survey taken by Infogroup ORC for TD Ameritrade first released in November, the New Year’s resolutions Americans make have a great deal to do with whether they are men or women, how much they make, and how old they are.

The survey asked a number of questions about respondents’ New Year’s resolutions in general and financial resolutions in particular—whether they intended to make any, what they were likely to be, whether they felt they had been able to keep them—and the replies were revealing.

One finding of particular note to advisors: Stuart Rubinstein, managing director, client engagement at TD Ameritrade, noted that advisors should make talking to their clients their first New Year’s resolution. “This is a great time of year,” he explained, “as people are making resolutions and trying to be better at savings, and saving for retirement. . . . There’s no better time than January to have that conversation with clients.” Particularly valuable, he suggested, is asking ckuebts whether they’re on track and how you as their advisor can help can make the difference for them to keep their own resolutions.

As for those financial resolutions, it appears that women are more likely to stick with financial resolutions than men, if not by a huge margin:30% of women, compared to 25% of men, said they are still hard at work on the financial resolutions they made in 2009. Women are also more likely to regard their financial situation in 2011 as uncertain, at 60%, to men’s 50%. To that end, 68% of the women surveyed plan to save more money in 2011, compared with 62% of men (66% of women had planned to save more money in 2010, and 60% had planned to do so in 2009).

Interestingly, while more women also plan to reduce spending (54%, compared with 50% of men), pay off debt (47%, compared to 46%) and start or build retirement savings (34% compared to 30%), only 16% of women planned to start or build an investment portfolio, compared with 22% of men.

Of the women who were more or equally likely to make a financial resolution for 2011, only 30% said they could realistically achieve those resolutions, compared with 42% of men; 27% of women felt they could realistically achieve a resolution to contribute regularly to an IRA, compared with 39% of men; and of those who said they were less likely to…


make a financial resolution for 2011, 50% of male respondents said it was because they were in a better financial situation than last year; only 29% of women said that.

Another key finding for advisors: Only 16% of respondents, male or female, said they intended to seek professional financial advice in the New Year; 25% of women, compared with 22% of men, said they had resolved to take action on a financial or savings plan they already had.

Quality of Life Resolutions at Top of List

The top resolution cited by respondents had nothing to do with money, or health, or other altruistic objectives. Instead, respondents said that they were determined to relax or reduce stress (67%) and have fun (also 67%) in the New Year.

Rubinstein of TD Ameritrade pointed out that among survey respondents who had resolved to find a financial advisor, the two age groups most determined to do so, at 20%, were those aged 18-34 and 55-64. The 35-54-year-old age group wasn’t far behind, at 17%, but “the 35-44 age group was lowest,” he added, “at only 8%.”

The survey of 1,009 adults was conducted by telephone on September 18-20, 2010 by Princeton-based Infogroup ORC. Respondents were grouped into five different cohorts based on annual household income ranging from $35,000 annually to more than $100,000.