Americans Focused on Rebuilding Finances

Americans are no longer dwelling on concerns about the economy and instead are focused on rebuilding their finances for the future, according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index.

The research found that 62% of workers and 54% of retirees said they are spending less money since the economic downturn began in 2008. Respondents also reported paying down debt (45% of workers; 29% of retirees); increasing savings for an emergency fund (22% of workers; 14% of retirees); and increasing retirement savings (18% of workers).

Further proof of their focus on rebuilding their finances is seen in what Americans plan to do with extra cash expected. According to the Principal Financial Well-Being Index, 77% of workers and 42% of retirees expect to receive a tax refund this year, and workers’ plans for their tax refund include paying down or paying off short-term debts (44%) or saving or investing the refund (41%), while half of retirees plan to save or invest their refund (up from one-third last year), and 23% plan to pay down or pay off short-term debts.

One out five workers also reported they received a corporate bonus for 2009, and the bonus was most often saved or invested (38%)—an increase from this same period in 2008 (29%).

The latest index also found:

  • Two-thirds of workers are very concerned about their long-term financial future—slightly less than in fourth quarter of 2009 (71%)—and 64% of retirees are very concerned about their long-term financial future—up significantly from fourth quarter 2009 (56%).
  • More than half of respondents (55% of workers and 54% of retirees) think health-care reform will have a direct impact on their personal health insurance costs. Of those who think they will be affected, the vast majority of both retirees (86%) and workers (82%) believe their costs will go up.
  • Forty-eight percent of retirees and 34% of workers said a third-party professional (certified financial planner, bank or financial institution, accountant, benefit provider or financial services company, stock broker, insurance agent or attorney) would be the person they would go to first for financial advice, and three out of four workers said they would definitely or possibly use a financial planning service if their employer offered it.
  • Three-fourths of workers rated the emotional impact of becoming disabled and not being able to work for a living as at least an eight on a 10 point scale in which a 10 means “devastated;” however, 49% of workers don’t own or plan to buy disability insurance in the next year and say instead they plan to rely on their family, disability insurance from their employer, or savings in the event of a disability.