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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

America at a ‘Financial Flashpoint’: Northwestern Mutual

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Are Americans more confident now or eight years ago?

According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, the financial state of America is a good news/bad news scenario. The study finds that Americans believe economic stability has improved, yet their conviction in “the American Dream” has declined.

“It appears we’re at a financial flashpoint in America,” Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning at Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement. “In the near term, people clearly feel a little better about the stability of the U.S. economy. At the same time, there’s a drop in longer-term optimism around the attainability of the American Dream. Combined, it’s a mix of improvement in the moment with uncertainty about the future.”

Northwestern Mutual released its annual Planning & Progress Study, which explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision making, and the broader landscape issues impacting people’s long-term financial security. The 2017 Planning & Progress Study surveyed 2,117 American adults aged 18 or older between Feb. 14 and Feb. 22.

The study finds that people are feeling a bit better about the U.S. economy: 43% of adults surveyed expect the economy to improve this year, which is a considerable jump from the 31% who said the same last year.

In addition, nearly three-quarters (72%) of Americans feel financially secure. And, the study finds, more than a third (38%) expect their financial security to increase in the next year, which is double the number (19%) who expect to feel less secure.

However, the findings weren’t all positive. The study also found Americans have a more “sober long-term outlook.”

Today, less than half (48%) of U.S. adults aged 25-65 say the American Dream is still attainable for most Americans, compared with 58% who said the same in 2009, the first year of the study.

The study suggests that Americans still feel a high degree of financial vulnerability.

The majority (67%) of Americans surveyed believe that there will likely be more financial crises over time. While the number is high, it’s a decline from the three-quarters (76%) who said the same in 2016.

The study also finds that more than one in four (28%) Americans feel financial insecurity, and more than one in ten (11%) feel “not at all secure.”

Despite widespread expectations that financial crises are likely to occur again, the study finds that people have taken a small step backward in terms of their long-term financial planning.

According to the study, 50% of those surveyed say they need a plan that anticipates up and down cycles, which is a drop from the 57% who said the same last year.

The study also finds that 41% of those surveyed say their long-term savings strategy has a mix of high- and low-risk investments, compared with 44% last year.

“The hope here is that Americans aren’t letting their financial guard down,” Barsch said in a statement. “It’s easy to have a short memory when it comes to financial discipline, but long-term risk management is not something to do in starts and stops. You need to plan for what can go right as well as what can go wrong, and it has to be consistent – throughout market and economic cycles, and over the course of a lifetime.”

— Check out Democrats and Republicans Alike Worry About Retirement Security on ThinkAdvisor.


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