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Americans cite top reason for caution in spending

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Many Americans continue to spend money cautiously, new research shows.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Milwaukee, discloses this finding in the second release of data from its new survey, “2013 Planning and Progress Study.” Conducted by research firm Harris Interactive, the survey polled 1,546 Americans ages 25 and older.

Nearly one in four people (23 percent) of the survey respondents say they prefer to be more cautious but note they have “too much catching up to do.” And 22 percent say they’ve dipped into their retirement or savings in the past three years.

The respondents cite among the reasons for their heightened caution:

  • Unexpected expenses (52 percent)
  • Debt (47 percent)
  • Lack of effective planning for the long-term (37 percent)
  • Thirty-two percent are concerned about job security.

The subgroups most likely to say they’d “like to be more cautious, but have a lot of catching up to do” include:

  • Generation X (32 percent);
  • Adults with children under 18 (32 percent);
  • People with assets under $25K (35 percent).

When asked about their savings habits:

  • Four in 10 (39 percent) Americans say they plan to save more in the coming 12 months, up from 33 percent who said the same in 2010;
  • The youngest generations — Generation Y (56 percent) and Generation X (52 percent) — are more likely to say they will save more in the next 12 months, while older generations will save the same amount or less (Boomers — 33 percent, Mature — 16 percent);
  • Half (51 percent) of Americans say their approach to the money they have today is “to save and be careful, aim for long-term financial security”;
  • Only 14 percent say, “Spend. Enjoy what has been well-earned and live for today.”

When survey respondents were asked what changes they’ve made in the last three years regarding how they manage their money, the number one answer — reported by 30 percent of people — was saving more. Additionally, when asked to indicate their preferred approach toward achieving financial goals, the most common response — chosen by 34 percent — was “slow and steady wins the race.”