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Pandemic Sharpened Many Americans' Financial Discipline: Poll

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What You Need to Know

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents either created, revisited or adjusted their financial plan during the pandemic.
  • The pandemic has affected 45% of Americans' timeline for achieving long-term financial security.
  • Gen Z and millennials surveyed have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

A third of Americans in a new survey from Northwestern Mutual said their financial discipline has improved during the pandemic, and nearly all respondents expect their newfound habits to endure after the crisis subsides.

Eighty-three percent of survey participants reported that they were prompted to either create, revisit or adjust their financial plan during the pandemic. Seventeen percent said they did not have a plan before the outbreak.

“Covid-19 has dealt financial setbacks to so many Americans, but people are changing their behaviors and financial choices to meet those head on,” Christian Mitchell, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement. 

“While we don’t know what post-Covid life will look like, we’re encouraged to see that people intend to hold on to the better financial habits they’ve developed during this challenging time.”

Here are some of the behaviors respondents said they have adopted and expect to maintain:

  • Reducing living costs and spending: 45%.
  • Paying down debt: 34%.
  • Increasing investing: 33%.
  • Regularly revisiting financial plans: 29%.
  • Increasing use of tech/digital solutions to manage finances: 28%.
  • Increasing retirement contribution/savings: 25%.
  • Receiving professional financial guidance: 19%.

The Harris Poll conducted an online survey in March among 2,320 American adults. 

Setbacks and Postponements

Forty-five percent of Americans surveyed said the pandemic has affected their timeline for achieving long-term financial security, with most indicating a setback of one to two years. 

Generation Z and millennials in the survey have been hit particularly hard, with 2 in 3 saying they have been set back financially. Northwestern Mutual noted, however, that the amount of time these two groups lost was consistent with the estimate of time lost for the broader sample.

More than a third of respondents reported that they have postponed a major financial or life event because of the pandemic: 17% making or funding large purchases or projects; 10% changing or looking for a new job; and 9% buying or building a new home.

“An improvement in financial habits is a positive for sure, but it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that it’s coming from a place of financial difficulties for many,” Mitchell said. 


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