The financial crisis has brought personal finance front and center in the mind of many Americans, with 70% saying taking control of their finances is a top priority and nearly as many believing they can accomplish this.

The findings are according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Northwestern Mutual.

“It’s encouraging that Americans are prioritizing their personal finances and that they are showing signs of developing better financial habits, including reducing their debt and saving more,” said Greg Oberland, executive vice president at Northwestern Mutual. “These latest poll results reveal a measure of optimism among Americans about their personal finances, and indicate that individuals are prepared to take actionable steps to achieve financial security.”

Asked what their priorities are for the coming year, personal finance topped the list, being cited by 36%, followed by 24% wanting to spend time with family and friends, 21% hoping for personal well-being, 14% spiritual fulfillment, 14% a rewarding career and 12% a love lfie.

When asked what steps they will take to get their financial houses in order, people responded: paying down debt (39%), saving (30%), building up an emergency fund (28%) and sticking to a budget (27%).

But Americans are not focused on insurance or risk protection, with only 6% planning to evaluate their life insurance in the coming year, 4% long-term care and 4% disability insurance.

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