Photo credit: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2664">Stuart Miles</a>

Six in 10 Americans say their financial planning needs improvement, according to a new survey.

Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, published this finding in a summary of results from an online of 1,015 Americans conducted February 2-13. The survey evaluates respondents’ ability to meet their planning goals and respond to current economic and political conditions. The survey also assesses whether Americans feel that they’re “moving in the right direction” in such areas as debt, saving, career, finances and investing.

The greater barriers to improving financial planning, the survey respondents say, are “not enough time” (33%), “find it too confusing” (28%), “not enough interest” (21%) and “don’t know where to find the right help” (18%).

The survey finds that six in 10 Americans are taking steps to pay down their debt, develop a budget, save a portion of their paycheck regularly and build up an emergency fund. Younger Americans, typically those under 50, are more likely to cite they are planning steps involved with immediate financial health than are older Americans.

When asked about their top priorities for improvement in 2012, four in 10 (43%) of respondents cite personal finances, just behind personal health (48%), but ahead of time spent with family/friends (31%) and spiritual fulfillment (15%).

Almost have of Americans, the survey says, have a plan in place for physical fitness (47%) and financial life (45%). Those with household incomes greater than $100,000 annually are “significantly more likely” to have a plan for their financial life and physical fitness compared to those with lower household incomes.

However, the poll finds, 30% fewer Americans this year are creating plans for “financial life” or “career/work life” compared to 2011.

Just over half of Americans view themselves as either “disciplined” (38%) or “very disciplined” (16%) planners who know their goals and have developed plans to meet them. Retirees are significantly more likely to say they’re “highly disciplined” planners (21%) than do their counterparts.

Women, the survey adds, are more likely to be “informal” planners (41% versus 35%), while men are more likely than women to claim to be “highly disciplined” planners (18% versus 14%).