As Americans make their New Year’s resolutions for 2015, once again, the majority are more concerned about their waistlines than their wallets, according to the 6th annual New Year’s Resolution Survey from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.
This focus on fitness over finances has been a reoccurring trend, reaching its peak in 2014, with nearly half (49%) of respondents saying that health/wellness is the most important focus area for 2015, up from 43% in 2013. Similarly, exercise/diet was highlighted as the top New Year’s resolution that most people said they would most likely make and keep (42%), ahead of managing money better (40%), and spending more time with family/friends (32%).
While financial stability continues to be an important topic for New Year’s resolutions, it remains a lower priority for most Americans, with only 30% of respondents choosing it as their top focus for 2015. This lower level of interest in finances is consistent with the decline in the percentage of Americans who said they will include financial planning in their New Year’s resolutions for2015, down from a high of 33% in 2009 to only 15% in 2014.
“With a healthier U.S. economy, continued market strength and lower unemployment, people have forgotten the trauma they experienced in 2008-2009 and have more confidence in the state of their finances,” said Katie Libbe, vice president of Consumer Insights for Allianz Life. “Things are looking up, but that can change overnight and it’s important that people take the time to review their current financial situation and determine if any changes are necessary that can help them meet both short- and long-term goals.”
Increasing need for financial help
One thing that has changed, however, is Americans’ interest in getting professional help with managing their finances. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said they are more likely to seek the advice of a financial professional in 2015, up from 19% in 2013. More Americans (36%) also selected “financial professional” as their top choice if they had free access to assistance from a top professional, ahead of nutritionist/dietician (28%), personal trainer (23%) and career counselor (13%).
Anecdotally, this interest in getting more help may be related to the fact that Americans say they are feeling more stressed going into 2015. Four in ten respondents said they are “more stressed” compared to how they felt at the end of 2013, with a similar number (39%) noting their level of stress was “about the same.” Less than a quarter (21%) said they were “less stressed” than how they felt going into 2014.
Identity theft, terrorism and wages are the top worries behind this stress. More than four in 10 respondents (45%) identified “data breaches by big retailers that could trigger identity theft” as either their top or second ranked concern in 2014. This was followed by “ISIS and other terrorism threats that make me worry about safety and security” (43%), and “stagnant wages that prevent me from getting ahead financially” (42%). More than a third of respondents (38%) said that “market uncertainty so I cannot confidently grow my retirement savings” was among their top two concerns.
In terms of bad financial habits that are holding people back from achieving their financial goals, results were similar to those of previous years. Top responses included “not saving any money” (28%), “spending too much on things not needed” (27%) and “saving some money, but not as much as I could” (24%).
When asked about the one thing they could do to improve their finances in 2015, most respondents said “pay off credit cards” (19%), followed by “build up my emergency savings” (17%) and “increase my retirement savings” (14%).
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America conducted an eNation online survey, the Allianz Life New Year’s Resolution Survey, November 2014, through Ipsos, with 1,004 respondents.
By Ayo Mseka