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How the Prospects of 2009 Have Changed

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U.S. adults who are now 35 or older appear to be more cautious about their finances now than they were 10 years ago.

Even though the economy is now calmer than it was 10 years ago, and consumers who were already 25 or older in 2009 are on much stronger financial footing than they were 10 years ago, those consumers report feeling more cautious and risk-averse today, according to Northwestern Mutual.

(Related: Generation Alpha’ Babies Arrive With Caregiving Obligations)

The percentage of consumers in the cohort who said they feel financially secure increased to 71% this year, from 41% in 2009.

Just 18% said this year that they feel very or somewhat more comfortable with taking financial risk, and 37% said they are much or somewhat less comfortable with taking financial risk.

Those consumers’ growing aversion to risk may be partly the result of the 2007-2009 Great Recession, according to Northwestern Mutual.

If consumers are getting to be more cautious, that could increase their interest in life insurance products, annuities and other arrangements that can insulate them from ups and downs in stock prices.

The Survey

Northwestern Mutual analysts have based the new figures on results from two related surveys: a new survey of 1,289 people who were 35 or older when they took the survey, from Feb. 20 through March 5 this year, and a similar survey that was conducted in 2009.

When Northwestern Mutual organized the 2009 survey, it polled adults who were ages 25 or older, at a time when the 2007-2009 Great Recession was in the headlines.

Results for both surveys were weighted for education, age, gender, race and ethnicity, region, and household income.

All of the participants in both waves of the survey were born before 1985.

Other Survey Findings

Expectations: Only 65% of the participants in the new survey wave said they believing that they will achieve their lifetime goals. That number is unchanged from 2009, even the participants in the new survey reported feeling more financially secure than the participants in the 2009 survey.

The definition of success: In 2009, participants cited being able to spend quality time with family as the top attribute of success. This year, “spending quality time with family” tied for first with “being healthy.”


A copy of the Northwestern Mutual survey report is available here.

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