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New York Life Wealth Watch 2024 Outlook: Financial Confidence Grows, While Credit Card Debt Looms

New York Life Wealth Watch 2024 Outlook: Financial Confidence Grows, While Credit Card Debt Looms

Over Half of Americans Report Meeting 2023 Savings Goals, Especially Those with a Financial Strategy; Younger Generations Most Likely to Report Seeking Guidance from a Financial Professional

New York Life’s latest Wealth Watch survey finds financial resiliency among American adults, even in the face of high interest rates and rising credit card debt. Two-thirds of adults (64%) feel confident in their ability to meet their financial goals, and over half (52%) of adults saved the amount they wanted or more in 2023. Adults aimed to save $7,435.57 on average and actually saved $6,138.06 – marking an improvement from 2022, when adults aimed to save $5,437 and saved $5,011 on average.

A key factor in adults’ financial confidence and ability to reach their goals is the presence of a financial strategy. In fact:

  • 63% of adults with a financial strategy met or exceeded their savings goal for 2023, compared to only 37% of those without a financial strategy
  • Adults with a financial strategy feel twice as confident in their ability to meet their financial goals compared to those without a strategy (81% vs. 41% respectively)
  • 83% of adults with a financial strategy say they are similarly or more prepared for a financial emergency than their peers compared to 43% of those without a financial strategy
  • Adults with a financial strategy are more likely to say they have started saving for retirement than those without (58% vs. 18% respectively)

“Our data clearly show that having a financial strategy is a key factor in not only feeling confident about reaching one’s goals, but in actually reaching them. Younger generations are reporting strong engagement with their financial strategies. Gen Zers and Millennials were more likely to report reviewing their strategy on a weekly basis and seeking guidance from a financial professional in 2023 than other demographic cohorts,” said Donn Froshiesar, Head of Consumer Insights at New York Life. “But despite evidence of strong habits, debt is still getting in their way. Gen Zers ranked credit card debt as the second most impactful factor on their finances in 2023 behind inflation.”

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American adults report confidence in managing debt and preparing for financial emergencies, and over half met their 2023 savings goals – but women and Gen Xers continue to report lower levels of confidence than other demographic cohorts

  • The top three words adults used to describe their finances at the end of 2023 heading into 2024 are: stressed (36%), hopeful (35%), and anxious (31%).
    • Those with a financial strategy are more likely to feel hopeful, on-track and happy towards the current state of their finances compared to those who don’t have a financial strategy in place.
  • Millennials led the pack on 2023 savings, saving $9,299.45 compared to the $6,138.06 adults saved on average.
    • Gen Zers saved $6,440.67, Gen Xers saved $5,132.20, and Baby Boomers saved $4,059.72 on average.
  • American adults feel well matched against their peers in terms of managing debt and being prepared for a financial emergency:
    • 76% of adults feel more or similarly able to manage their debt compared to their peers.
    • Two-thirds of adults (66%) feel more or similarly prepared for a financial emergency compared to their peers.
  • When it comes to retirement, adults on average believe they will be able to retire at 64 years old, with a majority (74%) feeling confident they will be able to retire at this age.
    • 62% of adults also feel that they are more or similarly prepared for retirement compared to their peers.
    • Still, only 4-in-10 adults (41%) report that they currently have retirement savings and only a fifth (21%) say they have a retirement strategy.
  • Despite high levels of personal financial confidence among adults, women and Gen Xers continue to show less confidence than other demographic groups:
    • Only 57% of women are confident they will meet their financial goals, compared to 75% of men.
    • Gen Xers reported the lowest level of confidence that they will meet their financial goals (55%), compared to Gen Zers (76%), Millennials (64%), and Baby Boomers (64%).
    • Married women feel less confident about their finances than their male counterparts (59% vs. 77% respectively).

Despite high confidence levels and increased savings, American adults continue to face challenges, including higher costs of living and rising credit card debt

  • Among those with credit card debt, the average total debt owed is $7,931.80 – an increase compared to 2022, when the average owed was $6,320.98.
    • Although most adults with credit card debt are contributing the same or more each month than they did in 2022 to pay off their debt (77%), around a quarter (23%) report contributing less.
    • On average, those with credit card debt report contributing $363.07 per month toward paying it off – slightly less than what adults reported in 2022 ($430 per month).
    • 1-in-4 women (25%) and 30% of Gen Xers with credit card debt report contributing less to paying down their credit card debt in 2023 than 2022.
  • More than half of adults (62%) report inflation as their top financial concern that may impact their finances heading into 2024, followed by rising interest rates (29%), and potential recession (28%).
    • These are the same concerns as those reported in late 2022. At that time, 68% of adults were concerned about inflation, 26% worried about a possible recession, and 29% were concerned about rising interest rates.
  • 4-in-10 adults (43%) expect their living expenses to be higher in the first 6 months of 2024 than in 2023.
  • An overwhelming majority of adults (85%) reported their finances were impacted adversely in 2023.
    • 58% of adults reported that inflation impacted their finances the most, followed by credit card debt (28%) and the cost of housing (26%).

“Although economic data point toward growth – and the findings of this Wealth Watch 2024 Outlook are fairly positive – consumer confidence is hovering near 2008-2009 levels,” said Froshiesar. “For a variety of reasons, adults are not experiencing a strong economy in their day-to-day financial lives, and we are seeing acute challenges among specific demographic groups. Specifically, women and Gen Xers are showing less confidence in achieving their financial goals compared to men and other generational groups, as well as more difficulty managing credit card debt.”

Despite broader financial challenges, nearly half of adults report having emergency savings and younger generations in particular are taking a proactive approach to financial strategies moving into the New Year

  • Two-thirds of adults (66%) report having a financial strategy in place, and almost half of adults (46%) report reviewing their financial strategy or budget at least monthly.
  • Just under half of adults (48%) have emergency savings, with adults having an average of about $15,027.74 set aside.
    • Men are more likely to have funds or savings set aside compared to women (55% vs 41% respectively).
    • Millennials (51%) and Baby Boomers (51%) are more likely to have funds or savings set aside compared to other generations (Gen Zers: 44% and Gen Xers: 43%).
  • 73% of adults took an action as a response to factors impacting their finances in 2023 – with cutting back on discretionary spending (48%) and making changes to their budget or financial strategies (31%) being the top ways.
    • Gen Zers and Millennials were more likely to develop a secondary income stream (20% for both) or seek guidance from a financial professional (11% and 15% respectively) compared to other generations as a response to factors impacting their finances in 2023.
  • Two-thirds of adults with debt (64%) report adjusting their strategy for managing their debts in the past year. The most common change has been to pay more than the minimum per month to manage their debt (28%).
    • Gen Zers (79%) and Millennials (74%) are more likely to report their strategy has changed in the past year compared to older generations.
  • Financial goals moving into 2024 closely mirror those reported for 2023:
    • 7-in-10 (72%) adults currently have a short-term financial goal, with the top three goals reported being paying for a vacation (28%), buying themselves a specific product they want (24%), and buying a car (23%).
    • 8-in-10 (80%) adults currently have a long-term financial goal for 2024, with building their emergency funds (41%) and paying off credit card debt (32%) being the most common.

“Moving into 2024, individuals report maintaining the same long-term financial goals they were working towards entering 2023. It’s encouraging to see that even in a challenging economic environment, Americans are maintaining focus on saving, managing debt and building a plan for the future. This will help them weather financial shocks or unexpected expenses in the future and set them up for longer-term financial success. It’s also encouraging to see that Gen Zers aren’t lagging too far behind other demographic cohorts in this area,” said Froshiesar. “As younger generations continue to focus on building strong foundations for their lifelong financial journeys, having a holistic financial strategy in place, and revisiting that strategy on a regular basis with the guidance of a financial professional, will be pivotal.”

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