MINNEAPOLIS – Dec. 19, 2016 – Despite increased stress levels in 2016, Americans remain optimistic about their personal finances for the coming year according to the 8th annual New Year’s Resolution Survey* by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life®). For many respondents, this positive financial outlook prompted them to want to take action and get their financial house in order, either on their own or with the help of a financial professional.
According to the survey, 42% of Americans reported being more stressed in 2016 than in 2015, an increase from last year when only 36% reported being more stressed heading into the new year. Reflecting on 2016 and the main issues that kept them up at night, most respondents cited the election outcome as their top worry – above terrorism, identity theft or stagnant wages. Furthermore, the presidential election was 2016’s most worrisome topic for respondents both before (53%) and after (47%) the outcome was decided.
In contrast, when asked how the respondents thought the election results will affect finances after the results were in, the majority had a positive or neutral outlook (55%). Nearly one third (32%) were optimistic that they will make money in the near future and 23% believed their finances will not be impacted at all by the election outcome. The rest of the respondents reported a negative outlook – 24% were pessimistic, thinking they will probably lose money in the near future and 21% were terrified the market will crash leading to another great recession.
Getting the Financial House in Order
Perhaps in response to an optimistic financial outlook, more respondents claimed they would seek professional help with their finances. Nearly one in three (29%) of those surveyed claimed they would be more likely to seek advice from a financial professional in 2017, the highest percentage in the study’s history (the lowest percentage of respondents open to seeking financial advice was 19% in 2013). Respondents also chose financial professional (25%) as the top professional they would access if they could do so for free, ahead of nutritionist/dietician (23%), personal trainer (15%), lawyer (14%) or therapist (14%).
“As our study illustrates, despite a great deal of uncertainty about what lies ahead in 2017, many Americans still see positive possibilities for their personal finances,” said Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights Katie Libbe. “Now is an ideal time for people to take control of their finances by creating a plan that helps reach financial goals in the New Year.”
Overcoming Bad Financial Habits to Support Resolutions
Given that many Americans could seek help with their finances in 2017, it may be no surprise that they admit to having a variety of bad financial habits. The top bad financial habit for 2016 was “spending too much money on things I don’t need” (30%), followed by “saving some, but not as much as I could” (23%) and “not saving any money” (23%). “Spending too much” also topped the list of bad financial habits in 2015.
To improve these bad financial habits, the highest number of respondents (20%) said they wanted to build an emergency fund. Additional improvements included paying off credit cards, increasing retirement savings and building a budget.
Libbe suggests creating very specific goals to increase chances of success. “For example, don’t just have a general goal of ‘saving money.’ Instead, define how much you want to save and make it simple by automatically setting a certain amount aside – it’s easier when you don’t even see it.”
Implementing financial improvements in 2017 may also support the most common New Year’s Resolution – getting healthier. Beyond finances, overall wellness was top of mind for many as they look ahead to the New Year. When asked about focus areas in 2017, Americans ranked health/wellness first (45%) followed by financial stability (30%) and career/employment (12%). Respondents were most likely to keep these resolutions by “exercising/dieting more” and “managing money better/saving more.”
“Physical and financial health are interconnected. Having bad financial habits can create stress which negatively impacts health, and being unhealthy can create added expense,” adds Libbe. “By implementing a solid financial plan, Americans will build stability which alleviates stress and creates positive change in their overall wellness.”
*Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America conducted an online survey, the Allianz Life New Year’s Resolution Survey, November 2016, with 1,110 respondents pre-election and 1,005 respondents post-election.
About Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, one of FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2016, has been keeping its promises since 1896. Today, it carries on that tradition, helping Americans achieve their retirement income and protection goals with a variety of annuities and life insurance products. In 2015, Allianz Life provided a total of $2.4 billion in benefit payments that supported policyholders’ financial objectives. As a leading provider of fixed index annuities, Allianz Life is part of Allianz SE, a global leader in the financial services industry with 142,000 employees in more than 70 countries worldwide. More than 85 million private and corporate customers rely on Allianz knowledge, global reach, and capital strength to help them make the most of financial opportunities.