After a year of impressive job growth and stock market highs, Americans are feeling significantly more confident about their finances going into 2015. Only 31% of Americans say they plan on making financial resolutions in 2015, down from 43% in 2014, according Fidelity Investments’ annual New Year Resolutions survey.
Those who are setting goals are an ambitious bunch. More than half (55%) of resolution-makers say they want to save more in the new year, with a median commitment of $200 a month. Saving more has been the most cited financial resolution since Fidelity began running this survey in 2010, and its popularity has only risen as households rebounded in the years following the recession. Paying off debt (20%) and spending less money (17%) were a distant second and third. (Fidelity surveyed around 2,000 people.)
More people should be able to keep their savings resolutions in the new year. Thirty-six percent of respondents say they’re carrying less debt now than they were in 2013 (last year was also the year that paying off debt was the most commonly cited financial resolution).
With less debt on their plate, the percentage of respondents who say they feel better about their finances now than they did at the beginning of 2014 has surged to 41% —up from 26% last year, according to Fidelity.
When you look at how different generations are faring, millennials are the most optimistic bunch, with 50% saying they’re in a better financial position this year than they were last year. Only 41% of Gen Xers and 36% of boomers could say the same. This is the first year Fidelity has broken down the data by generation.
Confident or complacent?
Depending on which way you choose to look at Fidelity’s findings, Americans are either killing it on the financial front ... or they may be falling back into some dubious spending and saving habits. To be fair, there are reasons to feel good about the economy as a whole today. Unemployment is at a six-year low and the stock market saw is up double-digits so far this year — around 12% as of this week.
But you’d be hard-pressed to find an American worker who got that fat of a pay raise. The average American saw their wages grow by just 2% in 2014, barely enough to keep pace with inflation. They’re also grappling with more than $15,500 in credit card debt on average, down from a high of $19,000 during the recession's peak.
We’ve made progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Whether you call it a New Year’s resolution or not, there’s still much to be gained from coming up with a plan to save more, spend less and get rid of debt.
About half (51%) of people who made resolutions in 2014 say they now feel they are better off financially, compared to just 38% of those who didn’t set goals, according to Fidelity.
What about you? Tell us about the financial goals you plan to make in 2015:
More from Mandi: