Northwestern Mutual

Planning & Progress Study 2017

The 2017 Planning and Progress Study seeks to provide unique insights into U.S. adults’ attitudes and behaviors towards money, financial decision making, and the broader landscape issues impacting people’s long-term financial security.

The study is based on an online survey of 2,749 U.S. adults conducted from February 14-22, 2017 (2,117 interviews with U.S. adults age 18+ in the General Population and an oversample of 632 interviews with U.S. Millennials age 18-34). Data were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population (age 18+) based on Census targets for education, age/gender, race/ethnicity, region and household income.

Financial States of America

While Americans feel like the country is currently on firmer financial footing today, overall confidence appears to have waned, according to new research released by Northwestern Mutual. The study found:


View the full size infographic
  • 43% of U.S. adults 18 and over say the economy will be better this year than in 2016, which is a considerable jump from the 31% who said the same last year; and
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of Americans feel financially secure.

These positive signals, however, were tempered by a more sober long-term outlook. Today, less than half (48%) of U.S. adults aged 25-65 say the American Dream is still attainable for most Americans, compared with 58% who said the same in 2009 – the first year of the study.

Read the news release.

Financial Vulnerability

The 2017 Planning & Progress Study suggests that while Americans still feel a high degree of financial vulnerability, there are some signs of improvement over last year:

  • The majority (67%) of U.S. adults 18 and over believe that, over time, there will likely be more financial crises. While the number is high, it’s a sharp decline from the three-quarters (76%) who said the same in 2016.
  • 43% of U.S. adults say the economy will be better this year than in 2016, versus 31% who said the same last year.
  • 72% feel financially secure. And more than a third (38%) expect their financial security to increase in the next year, which is double the number (19%) who expect to feel less secure.
  • Still, more than one in four (28%) Americans feel a level of financial insecurity, and more than one in ten (11%) feel “not at all secure.”

Financial Habits

Just as Americans are feeling slightly better about the country’s economic footing, there are signs that their financial discipline has slipped. Despite widespread expectations that financial crises are likely to occur again, people have taken a small step backwards in terms of their long-term financial planning. The study found:

  • Only 50% of U.S. adults 18 and over say they need a plan that anticipates up and down cycles. This is a drop from the 57% who said the same last year.
  • Only 41% say their long-term savings strategy has a mix of high and low-risk investments, compared to 44% last year.

Download Planning and Progress Study 2017 – Financial States of America