What Americans Were Thinking as the New Year Began

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Concern for the stock market in 2016?  Why would I be concerned?  I’m so buried in credit card debt, extended car loans, college tuitions, club sports for my sure lock “Division 1 kids,” and the need to chase the Joneses, or the Riley’s, or the Burn’s, or the Carrington’s, that I don’t have $1 to invest in the market.

In a recent study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs’ Omnibus Division, “What Americans were thinking as the new year began,” surprisingly, only 1 in 5 expressed concern for the stock market in 2016.  Maybe they are well insulated with my investment strategy, or their prognostication skills are worse than the millions who picked the Carolina Panthers to dribble the Denver Bronco’s fribble in Super Bowl 50, or thankfully they have an intelligent head on their shoulders and realize the market rises and falls with regularity.

So what type of financial concerns do Americans have in 2016?  General expenditures and life’s unexpected challenges top the list as 82% of Americans expect to face at least one major financial concern in 2016: general living expenses (53%), medical expenses (34%), saving for retirement (29%), or credit card debt (26%).  Every day it gets harder and harder to stash the cash, or create a short-medium-long term emergency savings account to pay for these speed bumps, but the proof is in the data.  A recent release from the US Bureau for Economic Analysis pegs US savings around 5% of disposable income, far less than the 13% savings average during the 50 years between 1950-2000.

So can hope still spring eternal?  Our study seems to support this sentiment with roughly two thirds of Americans anticipating 2016 to be a better year for them personally.  Millennials are most hopeful (82%), followed by women (69%), men (59%), and those 55 & older (44%).

So, does anticipation = goal, or does anticipation = hope?  Hope is something wished upon a newly married couple.  Seems like a lovely word, but it won’t pay the bills.  My recent colleague Dr. Carroll put it best when he famously said, “A goal without a plan is simply hope,” so I chuckle somewhat when we ask Americans about New Year’s Resolutions and other changes they desire to make in an upcoming year, and the top three changes they desire to make are exercise more (57%), eat healthier (48%) and lose weight (47%), and not improve my financial situation. In 2016 we could use a healthy diet of passbook saving account increase and emergency cash build-up vs. the acquisition of a cool new black-platinum-Kardashianesque credit card.

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