BOSTON – 2014 was a good year for many Americans, with the stock market soaring to new highs and the unemployment rate moving below six percent. But is complacency starting to sink in, six years after the Great Recession? Perhaps, if New Year’s resolutions are any indication: according to Fidelity Investments®' sixth annual New Year Financial Resolutions Study, the number of Americans ringing in 2015 by making financial resolutions is on the decline, with only 31 percent considering one, compared to 43 percent in 2014. And yet, the survey also reveals important reasons to do so—all of which involve your financial well-being. "The fact resolutions are down is troublesome, since the survey numbers indicate people who made financial resolutions at the start of 2014 are more likely to say they are now in a better financial position, demonstrating there are real advantages to making them," said Lauren Brouhard, senior vice president of Retirement at Fidelity. "Simple commitments such as saving more and paying off debt can have a tremendous impact on the financial and emotional well-being of a household. The key to achieving your long-term goals and aspirations is creating a plan and sticking to it."
For the fourth consecutive year, the top three financial resolutions continue to be:
- Saving more (55 percent). The median commitment is an additional $200 a month.
- Paying off debt (20 percent)
- Spending less (17 percent)
Encouragingly, "develop a plan to reach longer-term goals" was also a popular choice, increasing to 14 percent. This is a more than twofold increase since 2011, when it was at a single-digit low of 6 percent. (Note: an infographic on the key findings can be found here.)
Happy days are here again?
In contrast to the diminished interest in setting financial resolutions, many Americans report increased confidence around the condition of their household ledgers, with 41 percent of respondents feeling better about their present financial situation than they did the same time last year. This is the highest level reported since the question was first asked in 2010 and a 58 percent increase over 2013 numbers. In addition, 36 percent say they are carrying less debt than the year before, another survey high. And, 64 percent expect their bonus or tax refund will be at least the same—if not larger—in the year ahead.
Perhaps surprisingly, this feeling of personal prosperity is most strongly felt among the younger generation. According to the survey, exactly half of Gen Y-ers (born 1979-1996) say they are in a better financial position this year, with only 8 percent indicating they are worse off. Furthermore, Gen Y is also at the head of the generational pack when it came to making progress in reducing the amount of their debt in the past year.
Why resolutions matter: Those who make them say they feel better off financially
One powerful motivator for making a financial resolution: it may help improve your financial condition. For those who say they made a resolution at the start of 2014, more than one-half (51 percent) now feel they are better off financially. In contrast, only 38 percent of those who did not can say the same.
Although the simple act of making a resolution is certainly not enough to ensure financial prosperity, it may provide the motivation needed to take the steps that get you headed in the right direction. 42 percent of those surveyed find sticking to financial resolutions easier than sticking to other common resolutions, such as exercising regularly or pledging to give up smoking. And, for those who made a resolution last year, almost two-thirds (74 percent) succeeded in at least getting halfway to their goal. Even better, 29 percent were completely successful.
"These findings validate the importance of taking small steps to get on a path to a more secure financial future," said Brouhard. "Challenging yourself to save more and invest for the long term is not as hard as it may seem and can truly improve your peace of mind. Even a one percent increase in savings in the year ahead can have a profound impact on your financial security."
Fidelity Has Resources for Those Looking to Maintain their Resolve
Interested in making a financial resolution, but wondering if you have the will power to stick to it? Here's a suggestion: 64 percent of respondents identify being encouraged by the progress made to date as far and away the most powerful motivator.
To help make and stick to financial resolutions, Fidelity has published a new Viewpoints called "New Year Outlooks Special Report," available at fidelity.com/resolutions. The report provides a month-by-month guide for the year ahead that can help investors get their finances in order, as well as useful tools to help save more, budget and invest for retirement. In addition, "Ten things to do before year-end" offers a financial reality check, with guidance on preparing for 2014 taxes and saving in the New Year.
For deeper discussions on both short- and long-term savings strategies, call 1-800- FIDELITY (1-800-343-3548) to arrange for a consultation with an investment professional at a local Fidelity Investor Center.
About the New Year Financial Resolutions Study
This study presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among two national probability samples, consisting of 2,014 adults, 18 years of age and older. Interviewing for this CARAVAN® Survey was completed on October 23-27, 2014 by ORC International, which is not affiliated with Fidelity Investments. The results of this survey may not be representative of all adults meeting the same criteria as those surveyed for this study. For more information on Fidelity’s New Year Financial Resolutions Study, an executive summary (PDF) and infographic (PDF) can be found on Fidelity.com.
About Fidelity Investments
Fidelity's goal is to make financial expertise broadly accessible and effective in helping people live the lives they want. With assets under administration of $5.0 trillion, including managed assets of $2.0 trillion as of October 31, 2014, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping 23 million people investing their own life savings, 20,000 businesses to manage their employee benefit programs, as well as providing 10,000 advisors and brokers with technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for nearly 70 years, Fidelity employs 41,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit www.fidelity.com.