If you doubted all those rosy reports about how the economy is getting better, you’re smart. Americans are having to postpone lots of life’s important milestones, retirement included, because of lack of money—and the number is growing.
More than half of Americans (51 percent) have stalled on at least one major life decision in the last year because of financial reasons, according to a Harris Poll survey from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The bad news is that’s 20 percent higher than it was in 2007 when a similar poll was taken.
In addition, the rates of postponement for some of these goals have more than doubled since 2007. For instance, take retirement (or don’t, which is the case for many): 18 percent of Americans are putting it off, compared with 9 percent in 2007.
Then there’s marriage—postponed now by 12 percent, compared with 2007’s 6 percent, and having children—postponed by 13 percent, while in 2007 just 5 percent were stalling. Of course, stalling on having kids could have something to do with the fact that 22 percent are delaying buying a home, while in 2007 14 percent were putting it off.
Higher education is on hold, too, with 24 percent waiting till they feel more flush. In 2007, 11 percent—still a sizeable enough number—were trying to save up.
One item people shouldn’t be putting off, although it’s certainly understandable, is having a medical procedure done. In 2015, 19 percent were waiting till their finances were in better shape, while in 2007 just 9 percent stalled.
So what’s getting in the way?
Well, despite the fact that 85 percent of respondents report having made positive changes to their financial behavior since the recession, such as following a monthly budget (58 percent), increasing their savings rate (44 percent) or building up an emergency fund (35 percent), 60 percent of Americans said they were postponing these major life steps because of a lack of savings.
Half said they were worried about the economy; others said they were having a tough time keeping up with nonmortgage monthly bills (39 percent) or medical bills (29 percent).
And some folks are taking care of elderly parents or other relatives (29 percent), working on reducing their credit card debt (28 percent), or worrying about losing their jobs (27 percent) and having a hard time making mortgage payments (25 percent).