Working Americans and retirees have a negative outlook of the broader economy, worried by unknowns such as the speed of vaccine rollouts, the return of normal business and the future of school attendance. But when it comes to their personal finances, they are committed to taking charge, according to a survey from Empower Retirement and Personal Capital.
Survey respondents ranked “saving for retirement” and “paying off personal debt” as their top goals. They indicated that they want to spend more time planning their finances and learn more about financial strategies.
The survey, which was conducted by the Harris Poll from November 25 to December 11, included 2,008 U.S. full-time workers and retired employees. The results are detailed in a white paper titled,” In Uncharted Waters, Savers Keep Both Hands on the Tiller.”
Despite pessimism about the larger economy, respondents indicated that they are confident in their ability to manage their personal finances. But as Covid-19 drags on, two-thirds of respondents said they are bracing for financial pain if major lockdowns continue to roll out. Forty-four percent worry about losing money on investments, with an equal percentage saying a lockdown could impact their ability to save.
The survey showed that parents with children at home remain concerned about school closings. Beyond juggling work and homeschooling, many are concerned about their kids’ development and nearly two-thirds of parents reported higher costs associated with learning at home. On the bright side, the survey noted that parents expressed hope that, over the long term, the pandemic could inspire a dramatic reset on college costs as well as student loan forgiveness.
Women, the study found, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It pointed out that women are more likely to be the primary caregivers for children stuck at home, making it harder to work; and they also are heavily concentrated in health-care and other frontline service jobs that expose them to the coronavirus as well as to related business closures.
For example, fewer women (33% versus 44%) than men feel optimistic or in charge of their finances; more women reported that they “barely have their head above water” (31% versus 19%); women are less confident in their ability to build emergency savings (55% versus 69%); and fewer women (54% versus 67%) are confident they can retire when they want.
While the study identified a host of other issues that Americans are pessimistic about, such as health-care costs, higher taxes and housing affordability, more than half (51%) of working Americans are more concerned about the overall state of the economy than they were last year and 43% more about their own financial situation. Still, the study showed that 63% of all respondents feel confident in their ability to plan for retirement.
Respondents are vowing to take charge of their finances in 2021, as 83% said they want to minimize worrying about their finances, mainly through increased savings, and 70% indicated that they are saving more.
It also noted that certain segments of the population, namely parents (80%), Hispanic workers (81%), Black workers (75%) and Asian workers (78%), are more focused on saving and investing than other groups.
Additionally, the uncertainty of the economy has sparked broader interest in expert financial advice. More than half (52%) of respondents said they will seek more guidance when it comes to their financial strategies; 33% said they are more likely to work with financial professionals as opposed to 24% at the onset of the pandemic; 41% said they plan to spend less money on non-essential items; and 38% plan to save more of each paycheck they receive.
“This past year has been difficult for so many Americans. Those faced with financial hardships found themselves changing or adjusting their financial plans,” Stephen Jenks, Empower Retirement chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “But this tough year also has inspired some workers and retirees to re-examine their financial goals and seek expert advice on the best strategies to help them achieve a secure retirement.”