Thirty-four percent of Americans in a new survey acknowledge that their spending habits are influenced by social media, and 35% say they spend more than they can afford in order to participate in experiences with friends, Schwab Investor Services reported Monday.
According to the survey, 57% Americans pay more attention to how their friends spend compared with how they save, and 60% are at a loss as to how their friends are can afford the expensive vacations and trendy restaurant meals they portray on social media.
The pressure to spend as a result of social media envy and the desire to not be left out of friends’ experiences was especially notable among Gen Z and millennial respondents.
The burden to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ has been part of our culture for decades, but it appears that social media and the fear of missing out have increased the pressure to spend,” Terri Kallsen, executive vice president and head of Schwab Investor Services, said in a statement.
“Spending is not the enemy, but when we allow social pressure or other forces to lure us into spending beyond our means, it can impact long-term financial stability and become a larger problem.”
Logica Research conducted an online poll in February among a national sample of 1,000 Americans 21 to 75, and for generational comparisons, an augment sample of 200 older Gen Zers 18 to 22.
The findings showed that despite the financial pressures emanating from their social media feeds, 59% of respondents considered themselves to be savers, and 65% said they were willing to sacrifice spending money on experiences now to save money for later in life.
At the same time, many Americans were struggling to save. Here’s how they described their financial situation:
- Live paycheck to paycheck: 59%
- Typically carry a credit card balance: 44%
- Have built up an emergency fund: 38%
- On average, spend almost $500 a month on “non-essential items”
Benefits of a Financial Plan
Schwab’s survey showed that more than 60% of Americans who had a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, while only a third of those without a plan felt the same level of comfort.
Those with a plan also reported healthier money habits when it comes to saving. They paid their bills and saved each month, had an emergency fund and automated some of their income to go into savings. As well, they never carried a credit card balance and made other loan payments on time, or had no debt.
Planners in the survey who said they had an investment account also demonstrated good investing behavior. Three-quarters reported that they considered risk tolerance when investing, and were aware of fees and investment costs. Eighty-five percent said they regularly rebalanced their portfolio.
Fifty-six percent said they felt very confident about reaching financial goals.
Besides strong saving habits and good investing behavior, 52% of planners said they focused on how their friends save rather than how they spend money. In fact, 52% of planners said their friends motivated them to save and invest.
The benefits of planning notwithstanding, the survey showed that only 28% of respondents had a financial plan in writing. Among those without one, 46% said they did not think they had enough money to merit a formal plan, 18% said developing one was too complicated and 13% said they did not have enough time to do so.
The survey asked respondents to quantify “wealthy.” Respondents said it would take an average $2.3 million in personal net worth to be considered “wealthy.”
Schwab noted that that is more than 20 times the actual median net worth of U.S. households, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances released in 2017.
More than half of respondents said they were optimistic that they would be wealthy at some point in their lives, and two in five believed they would achieve that goal within a decade. Eight percent said they already considered themselves wealthy.
Despite the high dollar amounts Americans in the survey cited to define wealth, 72% said feeling personally wealthy came down to how they lived their lives; it was not about a dollar amount.
Asked what they would do with a $1 million windfall, 54% of survey participants said they would spend it, first on a house, then on cars and travel. Twenty-eight percent said they would pay down debt, 23% would invest and 21% would save.
In comparison with other generations, 37% of Gen Z respondents said they would save at least a portion.
Schwab said it had created a Modern Wealth Quiz to help people gain insights about their own saving, spending and investing habits.