Survey: Majority of Americans Aim to Strengthen Focus on Financial Well-Being in 2019

More Than Half Say Inability to Save Money is Top Financial Stressor

Date: December 27, 2018
Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

DENVER — The National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) has released results from its annual survey on consumer expectations, finding that almost eight out of 10 (79 percent) of U.S. adults will set a financial New Year’s resolution for 2019. A 10 percent increase over last year’s survey, the findings show steady growth in Americans who are looking to bolster their financial health.

In a trend that has continued year over year, Americans also indicate both an understanding of the importance of savings, yet have significant stress over their own ability to save money. In fact, over half (51 percent) indicated that saving money was their biggest cause of financial stress, beating debt (46 percent) as the top financial stressor this year. The survey was conducted online in December 2018 by The Harris Poll on behalf of NEFE, among more than 2,000 U.S. adults.

“Over the past year, despite uncertainty and volatility surrounding the stock market, rising interest rates, as well as concern of an economic slowdown, we are seeing incredible determination from Americans who want to take control of their finances and improve their financial well-being in 2019,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president and CEO of NEFE. “Each year there is a 60 percent probability that something will happen that causes a financial setback. Because of this there is persistent pressure to save, but many feel overwhelmed in doing so. We don’t want people to be discouraged.”

According to the survey, about two thirds of U.S. adults (68 percent) admit to experiencing an unexpected financial setback in 2018, an increase from last year’s survey (63 percent). Transportation issues (23 percent), housing repairs/maintenance (21 percent), and medical care for an injury or illness and inability to keep up with debt/falling behind on bill payments (both 17 percent) topped the list. Among those who say something causes them financial stress, two in five (42 percent) say not having to worry about saving would give them the most financial relief.

“We understand how challenging it can be to save money, which is why we encourage everyone to start small and remain focused on what you can save each day, week or month. Set achievable savings goals for yourself and then work hard to stick to them,” says Hensley.

The latest annual survey from NEFE discovers a number of additional findings for Americans including but not limited to:

  • Quality of Financial Life: Overall, a majority of adults (51 percent) feel the current quality of their financial life is about what they expect it to be, and 21 percent say it’s better than expected. However, 28 percent of U.S. adults say the current quality of their financial life is worse than they expected.
  • Gender Disparities: Women (32 percent) are significantly more likely than men (25 percent) to feel the current quality of their financial life is worse than they expected. Women (51 percent) also are significantly more likely than men (42 percent) to say they are living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Top Anticipated Expenses: The top three expected expenses for 2019 are paying off debt (37 percent), transportation expenses (32 percent) and expenses related to the home—excluding mortgage (29 percent).
  • Paying for Setbacks: If faced with a major unexpected expense today, about a third of U.S. adults would pay for it using cash (33 percent), followed by credit cards (32 percent), and emergency savings (30 percent).
  • Perceived Impact of Tax Law: Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) who plan to file 2018 taxes expect to pay the same amount in income taxes—only 20 percent expect to pay less and 17 percent expect to pay more as a result of recent federal income tax law changes.
  • Effect of Market Volatility: Nearly two in five Americans (38 percent) say that recent financial market volatility doesn't bother them because they understand that volatility is part of the financial markets. About a quarter (26 percent) say that it stresses them out leading to further worry about their future financial security.

Read more information on the survey.

For help getting finances in order in 2019, visit

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Endowment for Financial Education from December 5-7, 2018, among 2,030 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Please contact for complete survey methodology, including weighting variables.


  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
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