Americans feel optimistic about their immediate financial future and accept responsibility for their own financial security.

This is according to a new CFP Board survey of 1,015 Americans nationwide, ages 18 and up, across the entire political spectrum.

“This is encouraging news for the future that comes on the heels of continued, albeit slow, growth in jobs. I think the fact that there would be optimism is consistent with what is happening in the country,” CFP Board Chief Executive Officer Kevin Keller says.

Key findings include the following:

-- When it comes to providing financial security, 67% agree they have sole responsibility for their financial future, but Americans by a large margin want the government to provide some sort of safety net (72% for Social Security/68% for Medicare). Keller describes this seeming contradiction as a cognitive dissonance. “We don’t have an explanation for that,” he says.

-- More than two-thirds of Americans (67%) believe it is the government’s duty to protect investors from fraud and abuse.

-- Americans are conflicted when it comes to their financial security. Many – 44% – don’t feel any better about their financial security than they did a year ago, and nearly a quarter, 23%, feel more negatively toward their financial situation.  But half of Americans, or 51%, did express optimism that their financial situation will improve over the next year. Less than one in 10 expect it to decline. 

-- Over the next year, 79% of blacks and 76% of Hispanics expect their financial situation to improve. Less than half of whites, or 43%, share this expectation. Those identifying themselves as black or Hispanic also said they are more positive about their current financial situation than whites, with 41% of blacks saying they are more positive now than a year ago, and 43% of Hispanics saying the same.

-- Those identifying themselves as “liberal” register the highest degree of optimism at 62%, while 44% of those identifying themselves as “conservative” expressed such optimism.

-- Daily financial concerns are top of mind for most Americans. Chief among them are: filling up their gas tank (54%), securing and paying for health insurance (46%), making their housing payment (39%) and getting or keeping a job (38%). Securing and keeping a job is of paramount importance to young people (18-34), with 51% of women and 55% of men expressing this as a major financial worry.

-- Long-term issues weigh heavily among respondents, with 49% saying they are troubled about their retirement savings and 48% concerned about a reduction in government benefits. Only 40% of all Americans believe they will be able to retire by 65, and only 27% of males, ages 18 to 34, say they will be able to retire at that age. A third of Americans express concern that they will outlive their retirement assets, and nearly two in five feel their financial security is more at risk than ever before.

-- Similarly, 72% of older women (65 and older) express concerns about reductions in government benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while just 33% of women, ages 18 to 34, share that concern.

-- Those with incomes of less than $35,000 are more concerned with securing and paying for health insurance (58%) and a reduction in government benefits (58%) than those in higher income brackets. Only 26% of those making $100,000 or more a year express concern about their health insurance needs.

Keller notes that as Americans find themselves carrying more of a financial burden than ever before, they overwhelmingly, at 82%, recognize the urgency of creating a financial plan. In addition, nearly 60% of the survey’s respondents said they would benefit from the counsel of a financial planner or advisor.

“Our nation’s economic growth will be even greater if people are better armed to make smart financial decisions and plan for their financial future,” Keller says.

KRC Research conducted the telephone survey between March 1 and 4.

View the full report for the Shifting Economy Survey.

Ann Marsh writes for Financial Planning.


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