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Physical, Fiscal Health Are Top Resolutions for 2016

Dec. 16, 2015
Personal Finance
Physical, Fiscal Health Are Top Resolutions for 2016
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A new year is right around the corner, and people are once again resolving to make positive changes. But Americans aren’t just looking to do more lifting at the gym in 2016 — they also want to raise their bank account balances and pay down debt, according to a new NerdWallet survey.

A nationally representative online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet in December asked more than 2,000 American adults to choose their top priorities for 2016 (they were allowed to choose more than one). The results: We’re still committed to getting healthier, with working out and losing weight as the second- and third-most popular resolutions, respectively. What may be surprising, however, is how financial concerns such as reducing credit card debt, boosting savings and paying off student loans are figuring into people’s plans for next year.

Here’s how people are prioritizing their 2016 goals:

ResolutionPercentage of Americans saying this is among their top priorities in 2016
Increasing savings49%
Working out44%
Losing weight44%
Spending more time with friends or family37%
Traveling more35%
Getting organized30%
Paying off credit card debt29%
Saving more for retirement27%
Finding a better job21%
Learning a new skill or hobby20%
Paying off student loans11%
Getting promoted8%

Increasing savings a top priority in 2016

Asked about their top priorities for 2016, nearly half (49%) said increasing savings, the most popular answer on the survey. Considering that Americans on average save only 5.6% of their income, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, putting more money aside is a wise move.

Saving more isn’t the only financial priority, as at least some Americans are committed to paying down credit card debt.

Those with credit card debt prioritize it

Though the average American household with credit card debt carries more than $15,000 of it, paying off credit card debt is only the seventh-highest concern for Americans moving into 2016, below traveling, spending time with family and getting organized. But the number of Americans committed to paying off their credit card debt increases with the amount of debt they have:

  • Of all survey respondents, 29% say paying off credit card debt is among their top priorities.
  • Among those with more than $1,000 in credit card debt, 75% of them are prioritizing paying off that debt.
  • Of those with more than $3,000 in credit card debt, 82% are focusing on paying it off.

Student loan debt low among concerns

Just 11% of Americans say paying off student loans is a priority in 2016 — despite the average household with student loan debt having $47,712 of it, according to a recent NerdWallet study. Younger Americans are taking that debt slightly more seriously, with 25% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 citing it as one of their top priorities.

The fitness-finances connection

Getting healthier and increasing savings were at top of mind in the survey. That makes sense, as there’s a connection between the two, according to health experts. Money consistently ranks as the top cause of stress among Americans, and stress is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, including heart disease.

Saving more money and paying down debt are savvy moves that can help both your bottom line and your physical well-being, particularly if finances are a source of stress.

How you can best fulfill your resolutions

  • Enlist help. The best way to reach a goal is to tell people what you want to accomplish and encourage others to share and reach their goals. They’ll support you and you’ll support them, especially when there are setbacks.
  • Make your resolutions specific. If you hope to pay down your student loan debt in 2016, set a specific dollar amount as a target. Likewise, if you want to pay off your credit cards, be specific about how much money and time that will take.
  • Set milestones. Putting aside an extra $200 each month in your savings account will be easier than setting a broad goal like $2,400 over the course of the year. Break your resolutions into smaller goals to make them more manageable.
  • Be realistic. Setting yourself up for failure will only discourage you and make it harder to recommit. You may not be able to pay off all of your debt in a single year, but you can make considerable progress and create healthy financial habits for years to come.

Survey methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from Dec. 3 through Dec. 7, 2015, among 2,018 people 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.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

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