Optimism rising: Americans head into 2017 with ambitious financial goals compared to five years ago.

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ‘BE GONE’–2017 IS THE YEAR OF LONG TERM PLANNING.

But Are Americans Defining “Long Term” in a Serious Way?

NEW YORK, December 21, 2016—Americans are more optimistic about their financial situation heading into 2017 compared to the same period five years ago, according to a New York Life survey of more than 1,800 adults ages 30 or older released today and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. 

The study reveals that 43 percent of Americans are optimistic about their financial situation for 2017, compared to 31 percent who said the same thing in a similar survey conducted in 2011.  The proportion of Americans who feel they will be more financially secure and better in shape for retirement heading into 2017  increased by nearly 20 percentage points versus 2012.  In addition, a greater percentage are focused on reducing debt, with 67 percent planning to do this in 2017 compared to 57 percent who said this five years ago.  Another 61 percent also plan to save more next year compared to 50 percent five years ago.

“The negative effects of the Great Recession appear to be waning when it comes to Americans’ expectations and their proactive plans for financial well-being in 2017.  Despite the economic and political unsteadiness that continued in 2016, many Americans feel more secure about taking control of their finances heading into 2017.  The fact that more are expressing greater confidence in being able to save more and reduce debt is good news for their financial future,” said Mark Madgett, senior vice president and Head of Agency Department, New York Life.

Is 4.4 Years Really Long-Term Planning?

The study found that a sizeable majority of Americans are making long term plans (57%) – in contrast with only one in three who are making New Year’s resolutions (36%).  However, Americans define “long-term” as just 4.4 years on average.

“It’s very positive that many Americans plan on making long term goals, but worrisome that Americans generally define long-term to be within the next five years,” added Madgett.  “Is the length of a generous auto warranty really a long-term timeframe?  While planning for the next five years is a good idea, the realities of financial life show that long-term planning should encompass plans for the next 10, 20 and 30 years.”

Staying on Track

More Americans report they will seek professional help when managing their finances in 2017 compared to 2012, up 24 percent from 14 percent, with parents among the most likely to plan to seek such financial assistance (39%). 

How are Americans planning to stay true to their goals?  Across generations, Americans believe that tracking their own progress (47%) and relying on support from their family and friends (42%) are most likely to help them keep their goals.  

“We are pleased to see that more Americans recognize that a financial professional will help them in 2017.  We need to emphasize to all Americans that a financial professional is also someone who can help them stay on track because we find that families and businesses that engage with an expert do better and have more peace of mind,” concluded Madgett.

Making Progress: Americans Take a More Optimistic Financial Turn

  2016 2011
Expect financial situation to improve in the coming year. 43% 31%
Planning to reduce debt 67% 57%
Planning to save more 61% 50%
Believe family will be more financially secure and better prepared for the unexpected 46% 30%
Believe they will be in better financial shape for retirement 41% 24%
Anticipate more opportunities for career growth and advancement 35% 22%

Plan to increase spending on important purchases (i.e. home improvements, appliances, professional wardrobe, etc.)

34% 17%
Plan to increase spending on “fun” purchases (i.e. dining out, vacations, movies, sporting events, etc.) 30% 15%
Plan to seek professional help managing finances 24% 14%

Survey Methodology

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted December 5 - 7, 2016 on behalf of New York Life. For the survey, a sample of 1,863 U.S. adults over the age of 30 was interviewed online, in English. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2015 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, region, race/ethnicity and income. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

The 2011 survey was conducted November 10 – 14, 2011 by Ipsos. For this survey, a similar methodology was used, including interviewing a sample of 1,011 U.S. adults over the age of 30 online, in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

About New York Life

New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States* and one of the largest life insurers in the world.  New York Life has the highest possible financial strength ratings currently awarded to any life insurer from all four of the major credit rating agencies: A.M. Best (A++), Fitch (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa), Standard & Poor’s (AA+).**  Headquartered in New York City, New York Life’s family of companies offers life insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance.  New York Life Investments*** provides institutional asset management.  Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products and services, as well as retail mutual funds.  Please visit New York Life’s website at www.newyorklife.com for more information.

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Further Reading

Based on revenue as reported by “Fortune 500 ranked within Industries, Insurance: Life, Health (Mutual),” Fortune magazine, 6/17/16.  For methodology, please see http://fortune.com/fortune500/.

Individual independent rating agency commentary as of 8/9/16.

New York Life Investments is a service mark used by New York Life Investment Management Holdings LLC and its subsidiary, New York Life Investment Management LLC.