Surveys Reveal a Split in 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

What Americans are making resolutions about, and financial resolution suggestions from the AICPA.

With seven in 10 Americans identifying the COVID-19 pandemic as the most worrisome threat of 2020, it follows that 57% said health and wellness was their top focus area for 2021 (up from 51% last year), according to the annual New Year’s Resolutions Study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.

This increased attention to health comes at the expense of financial stability, which is the top priority for less than one-quarter of respondents (23%), down from 27% in 2019.

In addition to less focus on their financial stability, the study found that only 13% of respondents said they are including financial planning as a resolution for 2021, the lowest percentage since 2009.

“This has certainly been a unique year fraught with unforeseen challenges, but it is still surprising to see people even less focused on finances, particularly given high unemployment, forced early retirements, and other risks to financial security that many experienced in 2020,” says Aimee Johnson, vice president of Advanced Markets and Solutions, Allianz Life. “There’s no doubt that there is great value in improving one’s health and wellness, but now more than ever, financial health needs to remain top of mind. Poor money management can negatively affect your health because of the stress that can be caused by fretting over impacted financial plans. It does not need to be a Catch-22 though, as it is completely possible to address both personal and financial health in 2021.”

However, a poll conducted by Personal Capital and Empower Retirement shows that people are abandoning traditional weight loss resolutions and focusing on financial stability, with a focus on prioritizing retirement goals.

One-quarter of respondents report building an emergency fund, paying off debt, or saving for retirement as their top goals, respectively. Only 18% say losing weight is their top goal (vs. 23% in 2019).

Eighty-three percent of those surveyed say they want to minimize worrying about finances next year.

When it comes to financial resolutions for 2021, Personal Capital and Empower Retirement found Americans have a simple overarching goal, “Spend less, save more.” Forty-one percent of survey respondents say their top financial goal is to spend less on non-essential items, and 38% say their top financial goal is to save more of each paycheck.

The latest Money Resolution Survey from MagnifyMoney found more than half of Americans will make a money resolution for 2021, and another 16% are undecided. Among those planning a 2021 money resolution, about half said they want to reduce debt or become debt-free.

Fifty-one percent of Americans will make a money resolution for 2021, up from 47% this year. Those most likely to set a financial goal include six-figure earners (67%), college graduates (64%), Millennials (62%) and men (55%).

The top three 2021 money resolutions are reducing debt and/or becoming debt-free (50%), raising credit scores (46%) and increasing savings (45%).

About 59% of those who will set a resolution said the pandemic’s continued economic impact may prevent them from achieving that goal. Sixty-two percent of those who set a 2020 financial goal changed it because of the crisis. That number jumps to 83% for those who were laid off or furloughed and 76% for those whose salary or hours were cut, compared with just 40% who didn’t lose income.

However, according to the survey of more than 1,000 Americans, 53% of those who set a money resolution for 2020 achieved it, and another 36% have made progress.

For those wanting to make a fresh start in the new year, review their overall financial situation, check-in on their goals and set some new ones, members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA)’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offer 21 possible financial resolutions.

The list includes tips for boosting savings, reminders about budgeting and estate plan documents, and suggestions for resources to help prepare for emergencies and reduce debt.