Despite experiencing greater financial stress in 2016, Americans remain optimistic about their personal finances for the coming year, according to a new survey.

Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America discloses this finding in its 8th annual “New Year’s Resolution Survey.” The online survey, conducted in November 2016, polled 2,100 respondents, about half of them prior to the November elections and the other half post-election.

The respondents’ positive outlook is reflected in a desire to put their “financial house in order,” either as a do-it-yourself project or with the help of a financial advisor. Underpinning the effort is anxiety about not having enough in the bank for short- or long-term financial needs.

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According to the survey, 42 percent report being more stressed in 2016 than in 2015. Last year, 36 percent of those surveyed said they were financially stressed.

When asked about specific financial worries, most of the participants flagged the election outcome. This was a top concern both before (53 percent) and after (47 percent) the November elections. What’s more, the elections weighed on respondents more than any other topic, including terrorism, identity theft and stagnant wages.

Most of those answering the Allianz Life survey (55 percent) have, however, a “positive or neutral” view as to the election results’ effect on their finances. Nearly one third (32 percent) are optimistic and 23 percent foresee no impact.

Among the balance of the respondents who have a “negative outlook,” nearly a quarter (24 percent) are generally pessimistic and more than a fifth (21 percent) are “terrified” that the stock market “will crash,” resulting in another “Great Recession.”

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One fifth of survey respondents say they want to build an emergency fund. Comparable percentages also intend to pay off credit cards, increase retirement savings and build a budget. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Connecting with an advisor

More people, according to the survey, will “seek professional help” with their finances. Nearly one in three (29 percent) of the respondents say they will reach out to a financial advisor 2017, the highest percentage in the study’s history (the lowest percentage of respondents open to seeking financial advice was 19 percent in 2013). Respondents also choose financial advisor (25 percent) as the top professional they would access if they could do so for free.

“As our study illustrates, despite a great deal of uncertainty about what lies ahead in 2017, many Americans still see positive possibilities for their personal finances,” says Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights Katie Libbe in a press release.

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The Allianz Life survey also includes these findings:

  • Three in 10 (30 percent) identify “spending too much money on things I don’t need” as their worst “financial bad habit” in 2016.

  • To compensate, the highest number of respondents (20 percent) say they want to build an emergency fund. Comparable percentages say they also intend to pay off credit cards, increase retirement savings and build a budget.

  • When asked about their priorities in 2017, respondents rank high among them health and wellness (45 percent), financial stability (30 percent) and career/employment (12 percent).

  • Respondents are most likely to keep their 2017 financial resolutions by “exercising/dieting more” and “managing money better/saving more.”

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