Much uncertainty exists about what lies ahead in the coming year, but many Americans are optimistic about their personal finances, Allianz Life reported this week.
Allianz Life’s annual New Year’s Resolution Survey found that consumers’ positive financial outlook is prompting them to get their finances in order, either with professional advice or on their own.
The firm conducted an online survey in November with 1,110 respondents before the presidential election and with 1,005 after the election.
Stressed, Yet Optimistic
The survey turned up two major contrasting results.
On one hand, 42% of respondents reported feeling more stressed this year than in 2015, an increase of six percentage points among those who reported being more stressed heading into next year.
The sources of their worries? Most respondents cited the election outcome as their top concern, ahead of other headline issues: terrorism, identity theft and stagnant wages.
Not only that, but the presidential election was this year’s most worrisome topic for 53% respondents before and 47% after the outcome was decided.
On the other hand, 55% of respondents had a positive or neutral view on how the election results would affect their finances after the results were in.
Thirty-two percent were optimistic that they would make money in the near future, while 23% believed that the election outcome would not affect their finances.
Among respondents with a negative outlook, 24% were pessimistic, thinking they would probably lose money in the near future, and 21% were terrified the market would crash, resulting in another major recession.
New Year’s Resolve
Allianz Life said their optimistic financial outlook may have prompted more respondents to claim that they would seek professional help with their finances.
Twenty-nine percentof those surveyed said they would be more likely to seek advice from a financial professional in 2017, the highest percentage in the study’s history, according to Allianz Life. The lowest percentage of respondents open to seeking financial advice was 19%, recorded in 2013.
A quarter of respondents also chose a financial professional as the top professional they would access if they could do so for free — ahead of 23% who said nutritionist/dietitian, 15% personal trainer, 14% lawyer or 14% therapist.
“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,” Allianz Life vice president of consumer insights Katie Libbe said in a statement.
“Now is an ideal time for people to take control of their finances by creating a plan that helps reach financial goals in the new year.”
Overcoming bad financial habits is one way to take control. Thirty percent of Americans surveyed said “spending too much money on things I don’t need” was their top bad habit this year. “Spending too much” topped the bad financial habits list in 2015 as well.
Twenty-three percent cited “saving some, but not as much as I could,” and another 23% said “not saving any money.”
The highest number of respondents said they wanted to build an emergency fund as a way to improve their financial habits. Other improvements included paying off credit cards, increasing retirement savings and building a budget.
Libbe suggested that creating very specific goals would increase chances of success. For example, rather than setting a general goal of saving money, consumers might define a specific figure to save and make it simple by automatically setting that amount aside.
“It’s easier when you don’t even see it,” she said.
Implementing financial improvements in 2017 may also support getting healthier, the most common New Year’s resolution, Allianz Life said.
Beyond finances, overall wellness was top of mind for 45% of respondents as they looked ahead to next year. Thirty percent cited financial stability and 12% career/employment.
Respondents said they were most likely to keep these resolutions by “exercising/dieting more” and “managing money better/saving more.”
“Physical and financial health are interconnected,” Libbe said. “By implementing a solid financial plan, Americans will build stability, which alleviates stress and creates positive change in their overall wellness.”
— Check out Investor Optimism Reaches 9-Year High: Wells Fargo/Gallup on ThinkAdvisor.