Each New Year’s Day brings a fresh crop of New Year’s resolutions. For the last six years, Allianz Life Insurance has conducted a survey to gain insight into these resolutions, and therefore into our concerns for the upcoming year.
The 2015 results were no surprise. Health and wellness concerns topped the respondent’s list, with 49% citing fitness issues as the primary focus for the year. All across America, gyms and health clubs count on this result to provide a surge of memberships that subsidize those who keep working out beyond mid-January.
Could it be different this year? History says otherwise. Given that 43% cited fitness issues as their biggest concern in last year’s survey, it is a safe bet that many did not fulfill their resolution goals and are included in this year’s 49% number.
Meanwhile, fewer people are concerned about their finances. Only 30% of respondents considered financial stability as their top area of concern, and a scant 15% of respondents include financial planning in their resolutions at all.
The financial planning number is down from 33% in the original 2009 survey, understandable given the economic situation back then. However, financial concerns that were overwhelming in past years have been joined by other anxieties.
The survey reported that 40% of respondents felt more stressed than in 2013, with top stressors being data breaches/identity theft, terrorism/ISIS-related threats, stagnant wages, and market uncertainty. Only 21% of respondents reported feeling less stressed overall.
Older Americans (baby boomers in particular) seem to be tilting more toward fitness concerns than finances, with 61% citing health and wellness as their primary concern and only 30% listing better money management as a resolution they would make and keep.
Yet older Americans feel the pressure of financial retirement needs. When given the choice of free professional help in various areas, 44% chose financial professionals over health professionals such as nutritionists (35%) or personal trainers (17%).
Perhaps older Americans feel more confident that they can make fitness-related resolutions and keep them without help, but that they need professional assistance to help with finances.
In that case, why is financial planning not part of their resolutions? The survey showed 28% of the respondents believe they “don’t make enough to worry about it” – exactly the people who could benefit the most from financial planning to extend their limited resources.
Financial habits have not improved much based on other survey results that mimicked those from 2013. When asked what was holding respondents back from achieving financial goals, the top three responses were not saving any money (28%), unnecessary spending (27%), and not saving enough money (24%). Meanwhile, 19% chose paying off credit cards as the single thing they could do to most improve their finances.
In summary, we realize we have financial problems but tend not to make our resolutions about those concerns. We tend to make our resolutions about weight control and fitness, thinking that these are goals we can achieve and deal with on our own. We can correctly identify our financial problems, but we have less willpower to address them.
It seems likely that as baby boomers age, financial New Year’s resolutions will continue to rise up the list. Boomers know what needs to be done, and as more boomers near retirement and assess the options, financial planning concerns will reach a tipping point.
We hope that it is not too late by then. After all, you do not have to worry about being overweight if you cannot afford food.