New data from New York Life reveals Americans have boosted confidence in short-term financial goals one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York Life | May 18, 2021

Results released in the company’s inaugural Wealth Watch survey exploring Americans’ financial goals, progress and feelings about their ability to secure their financial futures.

NEW YORK - New data released today by New York Life found that over the course of the past year, Americans feel more confident in their short-term financial goals, including in the status of their savings and the ability to pay their bills month-to-month. Despite increased confidence in their ability to achieve short-term financial goals, the COVID-19 pandemic has many feeling like their long-term goals are still out of reach.

The results are part of the New York Life Wealth Watch, a new recurring survey tracking Americans’ financial goals, progress and ability to secure their financial futures.

“As people reflect both emotionally and financially on the past year, they are also looking toward a future that is still largely uncertain and unknown,” said Aaron Ball, Senior Vice President, Head of Insurance Solutions, Service and Marketing, New York Life. “This new research is intended to offer a regular look at how Americans are faring financially through a complex and ever-changing environment.”

“As we marked one year since the start of the pandemic, our inaugural survey found that many people are ready to use their savings for the things that matter most to them right now—including daily living expenses, managing debt and much-needed vacations,” continued Ball. “Despite increased confidence in the near term, we also found that anxieties about planning for the long-term that existed at the start of the pandemic are still unresolved.”

The New York Life Wealth Watch survey builds on a deep collection of research previously conducted by the company, with the newly released results highlighting trends that emerged during the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from the survey include:


Short-term financial goals are a reality again

  • Compared to a year ago, Americans are much more confident in their ability to pay their bills month-to-month (up from 53% to 73%) and their ability to pay for a personal emergency (up from 42% to 55%).
  • Vacation was the most popular short-term financial goal among all age groups (between 31%-34%) except Gen Z respondents, 40% of whom chose wanting to buy a specific product.
  • Americans also increased their savings, with the number of respondents indicating that they do not have savings dropping from a peak of 20% in April 2020 to 10% in March 2021.


Difficulty striking a balance to achieve long-term financial goals remains

  • Americans have the most confidence in their short-term financial goals, like paying for a vacation (66%) and paying off credit card debt (62%), but the least confidence in long-term goals, like paying off student loan debt (35%) and affording a down payment on a home (35%).
  • The top selection among Boomers, Gen X and Millennials when asked about long-term financial goals was building their emergency funds (between 40-42%).
  • Millennials more often indicated that they are saving up for a down payment on a home than all adults (25% vs. 14%), as well as to pay off student loans (13% vs. 8%). They were also twice as likely to include starting their own business as a financial goal (18% vs. 9%).


Managing daily living expenses and debt were an ever-present theme

  • Overall, 30% of respondents said they put money they saved during COVID-19 towards daily living expenses. More than half (53%) stopped making payments or reduced their payments on student debt. Of those, 49% said they were putting it towards daily expenses instead.
  • One in three Americans (30%) said that their debt is causing them anxiety, followed by fear of having to pay for an emergency (24%).
  • When asked how they would pay for an unexpected emergency expense, one in five respondents (20%) said they would put off a vacation, 17% would hold off on adding to their emergency funds and 15% would wait to buy a product they want in order to cover the costs of an emergency.

“Financial stress is a reality even in the best of times, but for many of us the pandemic has delayed the urgency to take action to address long-term financial goals,” said Ball. “Working with a financial professional can help to alleviate this anxiety and interestingly, we found that after a year of focusing on the financial near-term, Americans are more interested in seeking the help of a financial, with one in four saying they are more likely to do so.”

By tracking Americans’ financial goals, progress against those goals and feelings about their ability to create secure financial futures, the New York Life Wealth Watch will provide a real-time pulse on the state of finances in America through economic and cultural highs and lows.

For a more in-depth look at the New York Life Wealth Watch survey findings, download the supplemental data sheet.



Wealth Watch is a new recurring survey from New York Life that will track Americans’ financial goals, progress toward those goals and feelings about their ability to secure their financial futures, identifying key themes and trends that are emerging about topics like retirement planning, the role of protection-oriented solutions and the importance of financial guidance.


This poll was conducted between March 19-March 24, 2021 among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.


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. 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 has the highest financial strength ratings currently awarded to any U.S. life insurer from all four of the major credit rating agencies**.

New York Life Group Benefit Solutions products and services are provided exclusively by or through Life Insurance Company of North America or New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY, formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York (New York, NY), or by or through affiliates or subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation. Life Insurance Company of North America is not authorized in New York and does not conduct insurance business in New York.

*Based on revenue as reported by “Fortune 500 ranked within Industries, Insurance: Life, Health (Mutual),” Fortune magazine, 5/18/2020. For methodology, please see

**Individual independent rating agency commentary as of 10/15/2020: A.M. Best (A++), Fitch (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa), Standard & Poor’s (AA+).

Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.

Media contact

Sara Sefcovic
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-4499

View all press releases