The impact of the Coronavirus on people’s finances may vary, depending on who you speak with. With more than 200,000 deaths (in the U.S. alone) and tens of millions of Americans out of work, many are feeling the pain of the mismanaged response to this deadly virus. On the flip side, many others have continued to work; some have even improved their finances along the way—a new study from Northwestern Mutual NWE +0.6% highlights how people have handled the pandemic, financially.
The recent Northwestern Mutual 2020 Planning & Progress Study reveals that 84% of U.S. adults, aged 18+, expect the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn will have an impact on their ability to achieve long-term financial security. Six in 10 (59%) believed that impact would be moderate or high. Take a moment and think about how the Coronavirus has impacted your finances so far and what effect it will have on your overall financial future.
Optimism for a Strong Economic Recovery
The study also found that people are optimistic about the potential for a strong economic recovery. That is an account for themselves, personally, as well as the country as a whole. For myself and my Los Angeles financial planning clients, I am optimistic that we will get through this pandemic; what nobody knows is how long the recovery will take.
The study uncovered the following statistics:
- 83% of Americans believe they will ultimately achieve long-term financial security. Among them, 44% say it will be in a year or less, and 32% say it will take two to five years.
- 76% are confident the country will return to full employment. Among them, 47% say it will be in a year or less, and 39% say two to five years.
- 79% are confident the country will return to economic growth. Among them, 47% say it will be in a year or less, and 38% say it will take two to five years.
“These numbers speak to the enormous resiliency people are showing at a time of great financial uncertainty,” says Christian Mitchell, executive vice president, and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual.” As a nation, and as individuals, we’re in recovery mode. But, there’s resounding confidence that comes across in these findings — people believe in their ability to bounce back.”
For Many, Financial Discipline Has Improved
The study showed that many Americans have improved their financial habits during the Coronavirus. Whether those habits will be maintained post-COVID is another question.
More than seven in 10 (71%) Americans said their financial planning needed improvement prior to the pandemic. Today, that number has dropped to 61%.
Additionally, people indicated their financial discipline has improved.
- Nearly three in 10 (28%) Americans considered themselves “highly disciplined” financial planners today, compared to 22% who said the same before the pandemic. “Highly disciplined” is defined as knowing your exact goals, developing specific plans to meet them, and rarely deviating.
- One quarter (25%) of Americans considered themselves “informal” financial planners today, compared to 29% who said the same before the pandemic. “Informal” is defined as having a general sense of your goals and how to meet them, but not having a plan in place.
“It’s good to see these behavioral habits are trending in the right direction,” said Mitchell.
How Are People Covering Living Expenses During COVID-19?
While many Americans have been able to keep a positive outlook for the long term, many are still struggling as I write this. This is an election year; the West Coast is on fire, the East Coast keeps getting hit by hurricanes and tropical storms, all on top of a global pandemic. Please get out and vote this November.
The findings revealed that more than one-third (38%) of Americans have had to take steps to cover their living expenses since the pandemic.
- 19% have dipped into personal savings or emergency funds
- 13% have borrowed money from family or friends
- 9% have dipped into retirement savings (401(k), IRA, etc.)
The 2020 Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study
The 2020 Planning & Progress Study is a research series conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual. It included 2,702 American adults, aged 18 or older, who participated in an online survey between June 26 – July 10, 2020. Previous waves included 2,650 American adults, aged 18 or older, who participated in an online survey between February 12 – 25, 2020, and 2,077 adults, aged 18 or older, who participated between April 29 – May 1, 2020. Results were weighted to Census targets for education, age/gender, race/ethnicity, region, and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error could be calculated; a full methodology is available.
How have your finances weathered the Coronavirus? Are you spending more or less? Are you still working? This is a difficult time for sure, but I am optimistic that this, too, shall pass. When it does, you will be that much closer to retirement or your other financial goals.