Americans Focus on Waistlines Instead of Wallets in New Year Resolutions

By Ayo Mseka

Even though last year was plagued with high unemployment, sagging home prices and a volatile stock market, 80 percent of Americans said that they will not focus on financial planning in their resolutions for 2012, according to a survey from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. This lack of financial focus is at the highest level in the survey’s three-year history, exceeding the 67 percent of Americans who ignored financial planning when making resolutions in both 2009 and 2010.

The main reason for leaving financial planning out of resolutions was the respondents’ belief that they “don’t make enough to worry about it” (35 percent), the survey said. Twenty-three percent said that they already “have a solid financial plan” and 17 percent attributed it to the fact that they “don’t have an advisor/financial professional.”

“Everyone, regardless of income level, needs to make financial planning a priority,” said Katie Libbe, vice president of Consumer Insights at Allianz Life. “Whether you do it yourself, through a range of free and inexpensive tools online, or seek the help of a financial professional, the last few years have taught us that we must prepare for uncertainty and risk. Sound financial planning helps people increase their capacity to save.”

Waistlines ahead of wallets

Americans also put their waistlines ahead of their wallets in this year’s New Year’s resolutions. Forty-nine percent said that they were most likely to make and keep a resolution related to exercise/diet versus managing their money better (43 percent), according to the survey.

Moreover, when asked to rank five life focus areas: “health/wellness,” “financial stability,” “employment,” “education” and “leisure,” 45 percent of Americans said that “health/wellness” was their most important focus area for 2012. “Financial stability” trailed with 30 percent.

In a list of five economic events —“unemployment,” the “U.S. budget fiasco,” “home prices/sales,” “volatile stock market” and the “European debt crisis” — 48 percent ranked “unemployment” as the most worrisome of 2011. The “U.S. budget fiasco” followed with 23 percent, with “home prices/sales,” “volatile stock market” and “European debt crisis” drawing less attention with 15 percent, 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Despite the financial strains, when survey participants were asked if, given last year’s economic conditions and their current financial situation, they are more or less likely to seek the advice of a financial advisor/professional, nearly one-third said that they are “less likely” to look for help with financial planning. Only 20 percent indicated that they were “more likely” to seek financial advice, with most (49 percent) saying they’re “unsure” about focusing on their finances.

“It’s troubling to see that despite all of 2011’s economic volatility, Americans are placing less emphasis on addressing their financial security,” said Libbe. “Now more than ever, it’s imperative that people have a plan in place to help ensure financial stability and security—and help reduce some of the uncertainty surrounding retirement.”