Planning and Progress 2013 - Saving & Spending Habits 

Northwestern Mutual sponsored a study exploring the state of planning in America today that provides unique insights into people’s current attitudes and behaviors toward money, goal-setting and priorities. The study surveyed more than 1,500 Americans aged 25 or older. (Conducted 2013)

The study showed that Americans continue to hold their purse strings tight and favor cautious choices with their money. Nearly one in four people (23%) say they’d prefer to be more cautious but feel they have too much catching up to do; and 22% say they’ve dipped into their retirement or savings in the past three years.

When survey respondents were asked what changes they’ve made in the last three years regarding the way they manage their money, the No. 1 answer – reported by 30% of people – was saving more. Additionally, when asked to indicate their preferred approach toward achieving financial goals, the most common response – chosen by 34% – was “slow and steady wins the race.”

Playing Catch-up

23% of Americans say they “would like to be more cautious with their money, but have a lot of catching up to do.” Of those respondents:

  • More than half (52%) say it’s because of unexpected expenses
  • 47% claim it’s because of debt
  • 37% report it’s due to a lack of effective planning for the long-term
  • 32% are concerned about job security

The subgroups most likely to say they’d “like to be more cautious, but have a lot of catching up to do” include:

  • Generation X (32%)
  • Adults with children under 18 (32%)
  • People with assets under $25K (35%)

Americans Are Saving More

When it comes to habits of saving:

  • Four in 10 (39%) Americans say they plan to save more in the coming 12 months, which is a jump from 33% who said the same in 2010.

  • Interestingly, the youngest generations – Generation Y (56%) and Generation X (52%) – are more likely to say they will save more in the next 12 months, while older generations will save the same amount or less (Boomers 33%, Mature 16%).

  • Overall, half (51%) of Americans say their approach to the money they have today is “to save and be careful, aim for long-term financial security.”

  • Only 14% say, “Spend. Enjoy what has been well-earned and live for today.”

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