Americans Prepare For Another Tough Year Financially

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – January 5, 2012 – The end of the year is a time when Americans traditionally make resolutions for behavior they will adopt or goals they will meet in the year ahead. As 2012 begins fewer than two in five American adults say they will make positive financial changes in the coming year, including paying down their level of debt (39%) and saving more money (36%). These relatively low numbers may be a sign that Americans expect another difficult year financially. In fact, only 23% of U.S. adults say they expect the economy to improve in the year ahead, which is down from 29% who said so one year ago. Rather, 29% say they expect the economy will get worse in 2012 while 47% expect it will stay the same.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,237 adults surveyed online between December 5 and 12, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    There has been plenty of reporting on Americans’ financial concerns for the past several years. However, looking at Americans’ current expectations for both their own finances as well as for the state of the nation, it seems that the bad news may not be over yet. Some of the results include:

    • Fewer Americans plan to pay down their level of debt in 2012 than said so in the past two years (39% now compared to between 41% and 45% previously);
    • Only 36% say they will save more in the year ahead, compared to 40% who said so last year and 42% who said so in 2009;
    • One in six now say both that they will get rid of one or more credit cards (16%) and save more for retirement (16%) in 2012, whereas larger numbers (between 21% and 24%) expected to do both of those items in previous years;
    • Only one in ten now expect to undertake home improvements to increase the value of their home (11%), which is another drop from 2010 and 2011;
    • Fewer than one in ten say they will make less risky investments (5%) or take out a home equity line of credit (2%) in 2012; and
    • Almost one quarter of Americans say they don’t expect to do anything differently financially in 2012 (23%).

    While none of this is good news for those looking for a sign of economic improvement, there is one bright spot: fewer Americans say they will cut back their household spending in 2012 (45%) than said so last year (49%) or the previous year (55%).

    So What?

    Americans continue to face difficult economic times and the New Year may not provide a totally clean slate financially, but there are some bright spots when Americans discuss their expectations. Fewer U.S. adults now say that they will cut back their household spending in the year ahead. This is positive news for the millions who rely on the retail, dining and entertainment industries, and may be small sign that Americans are ready to move on from the harsh times of the past several years.

     

     

    TABLE 1

    2012 FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS

    Which of the following do you expect to do in 2012 in regards to your finances?

    Base: All adults

    2009

    2010

    2011

    Generation

    Echo Boomers

    (18-34)

    Gen. X

    (35-46)

    Baby Boomers

    (47-65)

    Matures

    (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Cut back on my household spending

    55

    49

    45

    42

    49

    49

    38

    Pay down my level of debt

    45

    41

    39

    35

    49

    44

    24

    Save more in the year ahead

    42

    40

    36

    47

    38

    34

    18

    Get rid of one or more credit cards

    24

    22

    16

    13

    16

    21

    12

    Save more for retirement

    21

    22

    16

    15

    18

    21

    5

    Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

    14

    13

    11

    8

    9

    15

    9

    Invest in less risky investments

    9

    8

    5

    4

    7

    6

    4

    Refinance my mortgage

    5

    6

    5

    3

    9

    4

    2

    Take out a home equity line of credit

    2

    2

    1

     

    1

    1

    1

    Other

    6

    6

    5

    6

    5

    4

    2

    I don’t expect to do anything different financially in 2012

    16

    18

    23

    21

    17

    21

    39

    Note: Multiple response question; In 2009 this question asked about financial activity for 2010, in 2010 it was asked about 2011.

     

    TABLE 2

    EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

    2009

    2010

    2011

    April

    May

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Improve

    39

    38

    46

    40

    34

    38

    30

    29

    28

    30

    34

    29

    23

    Stay the same

    35

    35

    32

    36

    37

    34

    42

    39

    40

    40

    41

    45

    47

    Get worse

    26

    27

    22

    24

    29

    28

    28

    32

    32

    30

    25

    26

    29

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


     

     

    TABLE 3

    EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR

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

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Echo Boomers

    (18-34)

    Gen. X

    (35-46)

    Baby Boomers

    (47-65)

    Matures

    (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Improve

    23

    23

    22

    23

    28

    Stay the same

    47

    55

    51

    42

    38

    Get worse

    29

    22

    27

    35

    34

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

     

     

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 5 and 12, 2011 among 2,237 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    J40990

    Q715, 720

     

     

    The Harris Poll ® #2, January 5, 2012

    By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.