New York Life Wealth Watch survey finds 1-in-3 Americans feel hopeful,  1-in-4 “on track,” about their finances going into 2022.

New York Life | January 25, 2022

As Americans look to the new year and navigate different phases of life, adults surveyed reported COVID-19 being a key influence on their financial outlook.

Generations report different confidence levels and financial goals for the new year.

NEW YORK — As Americans look to the future with their finances in mind, many are beginning the new year with hope or a sense of feeling “on track” toward a goal or lifestyle, with some feeling a sense of uncertainty. The latest New York Life Wealth Watch survey found that, when asked how they were feeling about their finances going into the new year, nearly 40% of adults surveyed reported feeling “hopeful”, 1 in 4 (25%) reported feeling “on track towards a goal/lifestyle”, and 28% reported feeling “uncertain.”

COVID-19’s Impact on Finances

COVID-19 has impacted how people across every generation build a financial strategy. When thinking about the new year, nearly half of adults (46%) say that the COVID-19 pandemic is now a factor when considering their financial strategy. In fact, COVID-19 has shifted the emphasis from a holistic financial strategy – that incorporates both long and short-term goals – to a more near-term oriented one, with many adults reporting focusing on short-term goals like building an emergency fund (38%), paying off credit card debt (31%), and paying for a vacation (27%).

Among those who reported feeling the most confident in meeting their financial goals, they also reported having savings (46%), having a strategy in place (42%), and having success in managing debt (37%).

“Across the board we have seen COVID-19 impact financial futures and daily lives; now Americans are trying to evaluate and re-prioritize their financial outlook. We see younger generations are beginning to understand the importance of building a sound financial strategy early, with nearly a third of Millennials and a quarter of Gen Zers looking for financial guidance,” said Aaron Ball, Senior Vice President, Co-Head of the Foundational Business, New York Life. “Even if they don’t know exactly where to start, the new year provides an opportunity to revisit their goals and priorities.”

Generational Differences Influence Priorities

Generations have unique needs and goals, with Gen Xers – the next cohort to retire – reporting lower levels of confidence in their retirement savings and strategy, with over half (53%) of Gen Xers feeling less prepared compared to their peers. The shift may be attributed to perceived higher living expenses in 2022, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of GenXers expecting their living expenses to be higher. Significant numbers of GenXers also reported concern about inflation (58%) and healthcare costs (43%).” 

Gen X is not alone in seeking ways to evolve their financial picture. Only one-third (30%) of all adults surveyed said that they have a financial strategy in place and are confident in that strategy, indicating that many Americans across generations may not know where to begin when seeking financial guidance. Specifically, younger generations (Millennials and Gen Zers) reported that they are looking to build out financial strategies to help alleviate stress and anxiety around finances.

“Each generation faces the need for more personalized financial guidance to help determine the next best steps to achieve their financial goals,” said Ball. “While Americans are being nimble in the current environment and focusing on the near-term, understanding and feeling confident in longer-term financial outcomes should remain top-of-mind as people establish goals for the year.”

New York Life Wealth Watch’s newest findings highlight financial trends across every generation in America. Additional findings from the survey include:

Financial goals have shifted to more immediate, short-term goals rather than traditional long-term financial milestones

The top-reported short-term goals for respondents were building emergency funds (38%), paying off credit card debt (31%), paying for a vacation (27%), buying a car (25%), and buying a specific product (23%).

  • Survey respondents overall reported the least amount of confidence in their ability to afford buying a home (50%) and to pay for education expenses (52%) when compared to last year.
  • Gen X respondents reported a 10-point gap in confidence from all adults in their ability to afford housing expenses (63%-73%) and ability to afford the expenses of their desired lifestyle (54%-65%).

Younger generations continue to be interested in having a financial professional to address a variety of concerns and specific tactics

  • Millennials and Gen Zers are both seeking guidance from a financial professional to help develop their financial strategy.
  • 1 in 3 Millennials and almost 1 in 4 Gen Zers report development of their financial strategy to increase savings as something they seek from financial guidance (32% and 23% respectively).*

Generations are navigating debt differently

  • Gen Xers have more debt, reporting higher amounts of credit card debt than other generations, resulting in lower confidence in their ability to pay these debts off.
  • According to a 2021 Wealth Watch, on average, Gen Xers owe $8,997 in credit card debt compared to $5,997 for Boomers and $7,654 for Millennials.

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



Wealth Watch is a 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 December 8 and December 11, 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 States1 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 agencies2.

1Based on revenue as reported by “Fortune 500 ranked within Industries, Insurance: Life, Health (Mutual),” Fortune magazine, 6/1/2021. For methodology, please see

2Individual independent rating agency commentary as of 9/30/2021: A.M. Best (A++), Fitch (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa), Standard & Poor’s (AA+).

*Clarification to this data point was updated on 1/27/2022

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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937

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