Economic Expectations Influence Financial “Resolutions”

Though pluralities show status quo expectations for the U.S. economy, the percentage expecting it to get worse is on the rise

05:00 AM EST Jan 14, 2016 Rating
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Economic Expectations Influence Financial “Resolutions”

NEW YORK, N.Y. – With 2015 in the history books, many Americans take stock of their decisions in the year gone by and evaluate what they might change in the year ahead. Of course, when it comes to personal finance decisions, those choices don’t take place in a vacuum; expectations of which direction the economy will head can greatly impact financial plans for the year ahead.

Case in point: those who expect the U.S. economy to get worse in the year ahead are much more likely than those expecting an upswing to say they’ll cut back on spending in the new year (51% vs. 29%). On the other hand, those expecting the economy to improve are more likely to anticipate saving more in the year ahead (50%, vs. 33% of those expecting the economy to get worse).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,255 U.S. adults surveyed online between December 9 and 14, 2015.

One’s expectations on the home front show an even greater influence over plans for the year ahead. Those who expect their household financial condition to get better in the next six months are more likely to have a number of fiscal goals in mind, including:

Great…ly similar expectations

Taking a step back, what are Americans expecting when they look in their fiscal crystal balls?

Fiscal resolve

U.S. adults were asked both their financial plans for the year ahead and what they may have planned on doing in 2015 – along with whether or not they followed through on those items.

Reflecting on 2015, many Americans followed through on their financial goals. Among those who indicated having planned a series of financially “responsible” actions in 2015, those who followed through on their intentions generally outpace those who didn’t. Some of the 2015 plans showing especially solid follow-through rates include:

Turning to 2016:

 

 

TABLE 1a

 EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR - TREND

“In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?”

Base: All adults

 

2009

2010

April

May

Aug

Sept

Oct

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

39

38

46

40

34

38

30

29

28

30

34

29

Stay the same

35

35

32

36

37

34

42

39

40

40

41

45

Get worse

26

27

22

24

29

28

28

32

32

30

25

26

 

 

2011

2012

2013

Feb

June

July

Sept

Oct

Dec

Feb

Dec

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

34

26

23

21

20

23

36

33

32

30

29

32

32

29

27

22

22

25

27

Stay the same

42

41

41

45

46

47

40

31

40

37

41

42

41

44

42

46

37

44

42

Get worse

25

33

37

34

34

29

24

36

28

33

29

25

27

27

31

32

41

32

32

 

 

2014

2015

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Apr

June

Sept

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

26

26

24

26

22

25

22

26

27

28

32

28

26

25

26

24

Stay the same

44

43

45

48

51

46

49

45

51

50

47

49

51

49

43

44

Get worse

30

32

31

27

26

29

29

29

22

23

21

23

24

27

30

32

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 1b

 EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

“In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Region

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

24

9

40

20

28

23

21

21

29

17

21

28

Stay the same

44

45

44

43

48

46

43

35

44

48

42

44

Get worse

32

46

17

37

24

32

36

44

27

35

37

27

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 2a

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

“Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?”

Base:  All adults

 

2013

2014

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

23

21

22

26

24

24

19

18

20

23

22

21

24

23

23

24

22

21

22

22

     Much better

3

3

4

5

4

5

4

3

4

4

4

4

5

4

6

6

4

3

4

4

     Somewhat better

20

17

18

20

20

19

15

15

16

18

19

17

20

19

18

18

18

18

18

19

Will remain the same

50

49

49

50

53

49

52

48

50

49

52

52

52

 54

51

51

53

53

57

56

WORSE (NET)

27

30

28

24

23

26

29

34

30

29

26

27

23

23

26

25

25

26

21

21

     Somewhat worse

20

21

20

18

17

18

21

24

19

19

18

19

17

17

18

17

18

18

16

15

     Much worse

7

9

8

6

6

9

8

11

11

10

8

8

7

7

8

8

7

8

5

6

 

 

2015

Jan

Feb

Apr

June

Sept

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

26

23

23

27

26

  Much better

6

5

5

5

6

6

Somewhat better

21

21

18

18

21

20

Will remain the same

53

55

56

55

50

49

WORSE (NET)

21

19

21

22

23

24

Somewhat worse

15

15

16

16

18

17

  Much worse

6

4

5

6

5

7

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding 


TABLE 2b

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

By Region, Gender & Political Party

“Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Region

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

26

18

37

23

41

26

19

6

24

22

29

29

  Much better

6

3

9

5

8

7

5

1

4

5

8

6

Somewhat better

20

15

28

18

32

19

14

6

20

17

21

24

Will remain the same

49

48

46

51

40

53

53

55

53

49

47

48

WORSE (NET)

24

33

16

26

19

21

28

39

22

29

24

23

Somewhat worse

17

24

11

18

13

13

21

28

16

21

17

14

  Much worse

7

10

5

8

6

7

7

11

6

8

7

8

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3

ACTIONS PLANNED/TAKEN THIS YEAR

 “And, thinking about the past year, please select the statement which best describes how you approached these in regards to your finances for [LAST YEAR].”

Base: All U.S. Adults

 

Planned on doing (NET)

Planned on doing and did follow through

Planned on doing but did not follow through

Had no plans to do so / NA

2014

2015

2014

2015

2014

2015

2014

2015

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

58

64

43

44

15

20

42

36

Pay down my level of debt

52

57

37

37

15

21

48

43

Save more in the year ahead

59

66

35

34

24

32

41

34

Save more for retirement

42

42

26

22

16

19

58

58

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

30

33

21

21

9

12

70

67

Get rid of one or more of my credit cards

24

30

15

16

9

14

76

70

Invest in less risky investments

12

18

8

10

4

8

88

82

Refinance my mortgage

8

13

4

7

4

6

92

87

Take out a home equity line of credit

6

11

4

5

2

6

94

89

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 4a

FINANCIAL PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR – vs. Previous Years

“Which of the following do you expect to do in 2016* in regards to your finances?”

Base: All U.S. adults

 

In 2009

In 2011

In 2012

In 2013

In 2014

In 2015

In 2016

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

55

49

45

45

45

38

41

Save more in the year ahead

42

40

36

37

40

36

40

Pay down my level of debt

45

41

39

40

40

35

39

Save more for retirement

21

22

16

20

23

21

21

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

14

13

11

14

15

13

17

Get rid of one or more credit cards

24

22

16

17

15

15

17

Invest in less risky investments

9

8

5

8

5

6

7

Refinance my mortgage

5

6

5

5

4

4

5

Take out a home equity line of credit

2

2

1

1

2

2

3

Other

6

6

5

5

6

6

5

I don’t expect to do anything different financially in 2016*

16

18

23

23

20

24

19

Note: Multiple response question; In 2008 this question asked about financial activity for 2009, in 2010 it was asked about 2011, in 2011 it was asked about 2012, in 2012 it was asked about 2013, in 2013 It was asked about 2014, in 2014 it was asked about 2015, and in 2015 it was asked about 2016*

 

 

TABLE 4b

FINANCIAL PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

By Generation & Children in HH

“Which of the following do you expect to do in 2016* in regards to your finances?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in HH

Millennials

(18-35)

Gen X

(36-50)

Baby Boomers

(51-69)

Matures

(70+)

Men

Women

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

41

41

44

40

34

37

44

44

38

Save more in the year ahead

40

57

43

28

17

40

40

51

34

Pay down my level of debt

39

42

46

34

27

40

38

46

35

Save more for retirement

21

26

29

16

4

25

18

26

18

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

17

20

18

17

8

20

15

21

15

Get rid of one or more credit cards

17

19

21

14

15

18

17

24

13

Invest in less risky investments

7

9

5

7

3

11

3

9

6

Refinance my mortgage

5

6

9

2

1

6

4

9

2

Take out a home equity line of credit

3

6

3

1

*

4

2

6

1

Other

5

7

3

5

6

6

5

6

5

I don’t expect to do anything different financially in 2016*

19

14

16

21

37

17

22

11

24

Note: Multiple response question; In 2008 this question asked about financial activity for 2009, in 2010 it was asked about 2011, in 2011 it was asked about 2012, in 2012 it was asked about 2013, in 2013 It was asked about 2014, in 2014 it was asked about 2015, and in 2015 it was asked about 2016*

 

TABLE 4c

FINANCIAL PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

By Expectations for Household Financial Condition in Next 6 Months & for U.S. Economy in Coming Year

“Which of the following do you expect to do in 2016* in regards to your finances?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Expectations for HH Financial Condition in Next 6 Months

Expectations for U.S. Economy in Coming Year

Better

Same

Worse

Improve

Stay the Same

Get Worse

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

41

31

35

62

29

39

51

Save more in the year ahead

40

57

36

30

50

40

33

Pay down my level of debt

39

50

35

34

42

39

35

Save more for retirement

21

30

21

12

25

22

17

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

17

25

16

11

22

17

15

Get rid of one or more credit cards

17

22

13

20

19

17

16

Invest in less risky investments

7

10

5

7

8

6

7

Refinance my mortgage

5

7

3

6

6

5

4

Take out a home equity line of credit

3

5

2

3

3

3

2

Other

5

6

5

6

6

5

5

I don’t expect to do anything different financially in 2016*

19

11

26

16

17

22

18

Note: Multiple response question; In 2008 this question asked about financial activity for 2009, in 2010 it was asked about 2011, in 2011 it was asked about 2012, in 2012 it was asked about 2013, in 2013 It was asked about 2014, in 2014 it was asked about 2015, and in 2015 it was asked about 2016*


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,252 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #3, January 14, 2016

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll 

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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